Dear Parents and Residents,
First of all, I want to thank everyone who worked so hard on Monday to help us handle a very emotional and threatening situation. Without the full cooperation of the staff, students, and various police agencies the situation could have quickly deteriorated into chaos.
On Tuesday morning, having had 24 hours to reflect on the situation, our administrative team met with Terry Ruh, our safety-risk expert from BOCES, to debrief. Some of the key points that were discussed are summarized below.
Overall, once the police arrived on the scene and most of the pertinent information had been gathered, the plans we put in place generally worked as intended. Mr. Ruh concluded that:
1. We never lost sight of the overarching need for the safety of students and staff,
2. We were deliberate in our decision-making,
3. Those needing to act (police and district officials) knew their roles/actions were well-coordinated, and
4. In terms of communications, the use of regular and timely press releases kept the flow of information consistent and contemporary.
However, in situations like this we also gain experience and insight on how to improve our responses. To that end, we identified four key areas:
1. Improve the District's response time.
A. Improve coordination between the 911communication center, police agencies, and the school district.
B. Improve our emergency plan to better account for absences involving key personnel.
2. Limit access to the building during a lock-down.
Contact our building and grounds department to assist with security during a lock-down and restrict access to emergency personnel.
3. Keep parents better informed.
Using the federal grant we received earlier this year, install a reverse 911 system calling as soon as possible. This will allow us to immediately notify parents in case of a school or district-wide emergency.
4. Continue to evaluate the risks associated with evacuating vs. 'hold in place' on a case-by-case basis.
Sometimes evacuation is the best choice while, in instances such as yesterday, it is determined that 'hold in place' is the better option. In each case, we examine the information we have and make a determination whether we believe students are safer remaining in classrooms or exiting the building. Exiting the building carries with it the risks that students may be injured by an explosive device left in a locker/hallway and/or exposed to the threat of firearms by someone outside the building.
I am certain that, upon further reflection, other thoughts will arise. However, the one thing that will never change is that all plans and decisions will be made by treating the safety of our students and staff as our highest priority.
If you have any questions about this matter, please contact the principal where your child attends school or call my office.
Thomas M. Ramming
Superintendent of School