Dear Parents, Students, Faculty, Staff and Randolph Community Members:
First and most important, let me express my deepest condolences to the families of the victims in Sandy Hook. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone touched by this worst imaginable tragedy.
Second my thoughts turn to my own children and to our school community. I was talking with our Kindergarten students in Ms. Burris’ classroom just this week about the books they chose during library and the movie the Avengers and which superhero is the best. The faces of our beautiful RCS children haven’t left me as I’ve followed the news out of Sandy Hook these last 24 hours. Last night, my husband Derek and I met our own adult children for dinner and I hugged each a little longer than usual. I think too of my beautiful niece Kaylee, the innocence and delight in her young face and of bright McKenna, my friend Danielle’s daughter–both Kaylee and McKenna are precious four year olds who I treasure. How do we do everything within our power as adults to protect the children we love? How do we control for the unpredictable mayhem that was this evil event?
It is with these thoughts and emotions that I consider our #1 job at Randolph Central–the safety and welfare of every child in our care. Please know that it is with overwhelming love for our students and an understanding of the sacred trust you give us when all 1000 students enter our buses and doors each day that we do our jobs. We have a staff of faculty, support personnel and administrators who do this work because they want the best for each child.
What steps are we taking to protect our children? This is my fifth year as the superintendent of Randolph Central. As with everything else, I’m constantly analyzing and assessing how we’re doing–in every aspect of our operation. We have emergency plans in place and we began talking last year and have continued this year about how well we all know these plans, how up to date and effective they are, and examining our vulnerabilities. Like Sandy Hook, we are a close knit, caring and supportive community. We know one another and the community largely loves and supports us as a school system. That love and support can also breed complacency, a feeling of safety and trust for our neighbors. Generally, that’s a wonderful thing.
I began to really think about this last year and members of our Safety Committee invited Trooper Jen Czarnecki into the schools to help us learn things like: where are our weak points? What can we do better with daily security? How can we improve our fire drill procedures? How about our cameras and procedures for visitor entry? Asking those questions led to work by Trooper Jen Czarnecki and our Assistant Principal Jason Halpainy, along with the rest of our Administrative team, in making improvements and to plans for next Friday’s emergency drills. We will conduct more than just our annual lock-down, take cover, and emergency go home early drills. We have a planned evacuation drill for Friday, a drill we haven’t conducted in many years. We also will have Trooper Jen Czarnecki, other members of the NYS Police, and the Director of the Cattaraugus County Emergency Services, Christopher Baker, assessing our procedures and conduct during the drills so that we can learn what we need to do better.
Considering the events of the last 24 hours in Connecticut will fill us with a renewed sense of urgency about what we can do better with our own emergency drills and everyday procedures. As one Randolph parent wrote to me in an email last night, “I wouldn’t mind being slightly inconvenienced to provide better safety for my children and the other students.” She’s 100% correct–we have to reevaluate our entry ways, our procedures for visitors and children pick-ups in light of keeping everyone safe. At the end of the day–we must know that safety and security comes first, that our adults know how to react in the face of a real emergency, and that our parents will support our efforts to improve–even if it means a few extra minutes when they come to pick up their children.
You also should know that I’ve had several meetings this year with Lt. Edward Kennedy and others from the NYS Police about how we can work together to improve safety at RCS. Lt. Kennedy has extended an invitation for greater involvement in our schools that we have embraced. When the trooper on patrol is in our area, he stops at the schools just to walk through—for the purposes of protecting our children and improving our systems. On Tuesday of this past week, Trooper Moran met with me to identify an area in our camera system that will lead to improved systems at RCS. He complimented us on being proactive with police involvement and on our willingness to welcome those more expert than us into our schools to show us how to improve.
I’m not sure what could have happened at Sandy Hook to prevent this tragedy. I’m sure the news media will be all over that with speculation, along with experts in law enforcement. If preparing for such a tragedy helps us to save one life—it is well worth all of our efforts and care. Please know that as the superintendent for Randolph Central, I will do everything within our power to protect our children, as will every adult within our school system.
As always, you may contact me at any time to discuss your concerns, your children, your ideas. Please carefully consider how you talk with your children about these events, paying attention to their ages and calmly showing them that all is still right in their world. Pay attention to the amount of exposure they have to the media coverage. We will have an extra level of visibility this week as an Admin and Counseling Team and we are here for anyone within our community who needs us. We need each other.
All the best,