Rhinebeck Central School District – Newtown, CT Follow-Up

Parents of Rhinebeck Central School Students, Upon reflecting on the tragic and often mind-numbing news out of Newtown, CT over the past several days, I’m sure that at least some of you started a new school week with more than the normal level of concern, and perhaps anxiety, for the safety of your own children.  We appreciate the trust that you place in us to provide a safe and secure learning environment for your children to the very best of our ability. It is for this reason that, like every other school in New York State, we plan, we practice, we train, and we do it all over again each year, tweaking our planning and practicing and training on an ongoing basis to keep our students and our staff as safe and secure as we are reasonably and humanly capable of doing.   

As I heard more than one expert state on television this past weekend, in spite of the tragic events of the seemingly random violence this past Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School, schools are some of the safest places available for our children to be and to learn.  In fact, according to these same experts, schools have become even safer over the past 10+ years, as school personnel have developed and refined their efforts, often in partnership with law enforcement, to safeguard the learning environment in a spirit of continuous improvement.   

In support of these efforts, I want to thank our staff for their reasoned and professional approach with your children today regarding the events of this past Friday morning, within the context of the situation’s constant media blitz.  I also want to express my appreciation to the parents of our children for the excellent feedback, questions, suggestions, and support of our efforts that you passed along to our principals and other members of our staff. 

So you are aware, we began the process of reviewing our own planning and practicing and training as we gathered together our administrators, our pupil personnel staff (guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers), and groups of our teachers and non-instructional staff in each school building today, in the shadow of Friday morning’s events, to talk about what we do, how we do it, and how we can do it even better in terms of safety and security.  These conversations will continue as we learn more about what happened and what didn’t happen at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and as we engage our building safety teams in more in-depth and ongoing conversations about how we move will forward to justify your trust in our ability to do our best to safeguard your children.  

Since Friday, a number of parents have asked us for information on ideas for discussing the violence that has occurred in our country and worldwide, in movie theaters, in shopping malls, in houses of worship, and in schools, in particular this past Friday’s tragedy in Newtown, CT.  Members of our PPS staff and others have passed along to us, and we to you, a number of articles on the subject for your perusal and use as you see fit.  They can be found at the web links below and in the attachment to this e-mail: http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/talkingviolence.pdf http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.8479773/k.2264/How_to_Help_Children_Cope_with_a_Crisis.htm?msource=emefunew1212#.UM5sAFNmTQI.mailto http://www.childrenscolorado.org/news/inthenews/2012-news/talking-to-kids-about-school-shootings.aspx

In closing, as we all work hard to wrap our minds around Friday’s senseless and random violence against children, please don’t hesitate to contact your child’s building principal or the social workers, counselors or psychologists in your child’s school, to answer your questions or to assist you or your children in dealing with these events.  We stand ready to listen and to help.

Sincerely, Joseph L. Phelan

Superintendent of Schools

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