Response and Reflection
This week our schools were embroiled in threats of violence. Students, past and present, were involved. Northfield Township Police Department issued a press release this afternoon with an update on arraignment. You can find it HERE. An obvious question many students and parents have about the incident is “Will the students involved be allowed back to school?” It is a fair question. I can only respond in generalities to this because the rights of all students are the same relative to releasing information in their records – it’s private. That being said, it is extremely rare to allow individuals access to a building for any purpose if they participated in substantially disrupting the school. I am committed to maintaining safe, orderly buildings and won’t willingly deviate from that commitment. What lies ahead for these individuals is yet to be seen. Life for them will not be the same. As for everybody else, we have changed, too. I’m not sure any of us are thinking in the same way we were earlier this week. As for me, I am more prepared to deal with crisis and more confident than ever in the people who work for WLPS, the police who help us, and the students who attend our schools. The actions and ideations of the individuals who made the threats do not and will not define Whitmore Lake. Reflecting on the ordeal last night, I found some positive responses to this incident that I wanted to share with you all.
#TrojanPride – One of my favorite responses to the crisis of the school threat was #TrojanPride. Why? It simply set aside anger and fear, two very real emotions during times of crisis, and opted to build a positive support movement within our school system…a student-centered movement. If you head to Twitter, search #TrojanPride, you will see the impact of our student’s words. To me, it is a powerful response. Our young people know and trust our schools, the adults who work in them, and the police. They know we are there as guardians of their safety. They also know they have a role to play in safety. More and more that role is reaching out to people in need and communicating with adults when care and oversight are necessary. And, the students know it was wrong for their classmates to threaten their safety…wrong on so many levels. I’m confident they will see our reaction to this and know their schools are getting safer as a result, too.
I mentioned this in previous News and Notes and reinforced it this week in statements – we are in the process increasing the security of all entryways in our district. Some security is procedural. Some involve changing our building design. In fact, you will see construction beginning this June on vestibules in our High School. This was planned ahead of national and local events, but the incident this week in Whitmore Lake proves why it is necessary. And, I want to do more with our buildings. I know our Board of Education does, too. Together we are looking at extending our sinking fund to address facility issues. We are even asking our Senators and Representatives to change legislation to allow WLPS to use sinking fund dollars to contract with Northfield Police and have officers in our building on a consistent basis. If you want to get involved with helping make your schools safer, contact these legislators and ask them to change this language. Why can WLPS buy a camera for security with sinking fund dollars but not contract a police officer to assist in security? This should be a simple thing, right?
Facilities are just one aspect of security, though. I strongly believe that our relationship with our students is critical. We are so good at this. Our staff, at all levels, interact with each other and with students with respect and care. That quality is so important; we look for it in all interviews with new employees. If we cannot establish a good relationship, then information doesn’t flow. Listening to our students and being able to respond is a part of our job. We train for it. This threat, while tragic, highlighted our relationships. The student who reported the threat did exactly the right thing. The system worked as it was intended. However, keeping it working and improving it is going to be a major topic of conversation among staff. We are striving for perfection here.
Finally, one week ago I attended the funeral for Mr. Patrick Seaver. He had an enormously positive impact on our students, staff, and community. Mr. Seaver died March 1 after a courageous battle with cancer. Our students and staff decided to go all in on doing something positive as result of his courage. Next week they are holding a big fundraising event, Bingo Bonanza, all geared toward raising funds for families of cancer victims. Community businesses have donated some fantastic prizes that our students will have the chance to win as well. Another great example of responding with positive action and behavior. Mr. Seaver, I know, would be proud to have his name associated with this event. He might not say it, but I know he would think, “It’s a great day to be a Trojan.”
Project Playground: $50K For Play
We are one week into our Project Playground campaign to help replace our playground at Whitmore Lake Elementary school. To date, we have raised $5,065! I want to take the time to thank all those who have donated this week as we work toward our goal. For details on this project, you can head to our cause page here: http://bit.ly/2Ie8U8o.
We Want to Hear from You
Thank you to all who took the time to come to a Community Input session to share your ideas on the future of WLPS. If you weren’t able to make it and still want your voices heard, you have until next Friday, March 23, to fill out the online survey that you can find here: http://bit.ly/2Ekp12E.