LONGMEADOW, MA – Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea addressed safety in the school district at the April 11 School Committee meeting, stating the district was actively exploring new systems that would allow members of the community to alert school administrators to concerns or “individuals who are perceived to be a threat” anonymously.
“In the wake of the Parkland [Florida] tragedy, that was a question that a number of parents rightly asked about what we have in place to allow people to report safety concerns,” O’Shea said. “I would want to from the get-go remind everyone this is not to replace 911 or emergency calls. This would be if someone is concerned about something they see as a potential safety threat.”
He also noted there has been a concerted effort to encourage the message of “see something, say something” in the schools.
He explained at the elementary level, schools are reinforcing the concept of seeking out a trusted adult, as well as being empathetic and supportive.
Assistant Superintendent for Learning Susan Bertrand said at the middle schools, the emphasis has been on empowering students to make sound decisions. At the high school, Bertrand said school climate surveys have indicated students are comfortable going to an adult with concerns. She identified Substance Abuse Response Coordinator Shelly Warren and health teacher Meaghan Roy as faculty with whom many students have bonded.
O’Shea also noted the district was considering instituting an additional school climate survey.
“[We are] trying to make sure that we understand how connected and safe and respected kids feel during their school day,” he said.
School Committee member Jessica Hutchins expressed concerns with social media and the grasp children have with how they should react.
“I think that kids don’t always understand when to report,” she said.
Bertrand said that subject is addressed in the technology education curriculum in the middle school.
On that subject, it was noted that the district would host a second presentation of the movie “Screenagers,” a documentary regarding children in the digital age, at 6:30 p.m. on April 23 at Glenbrook Middle School after requests due to the popularity of the initial screening in January.
In other business, the School Committee unanimously agreed to sign a mentorship contract with Dr. Patricia Grenier.
School Committee member Kerrin Morrin, who was charged with identifying candidates to act as a mentor for the committee and O’Shea, said she identified Grenier with the assistance of Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.
“I was very impressed with her knowledge, directness, her background,” Morrin said.
Grenier came highly recommended by Scott, Morrin reported. She was most recently the Superintendent of Barnstable Public Schools, retiring in 2011. She now serves as the lead co-facilitator of the new superintendent induction program through the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents and is a trained mediator. Her career in education also includes stints as a special education teacher, elementary school principal and assistant superintendent.
According to Morrin, Scott advised that a typical mentoring process lasts nine months to a year, meeting with committee members and O’Shea in order to best understand and address the concerns of both parties.
O’Shea said he also spoke with Grenier and noted she was interested in making frequent visits to the district.
“She’d like to see me, work with me in my natural habitat, as she described it,” he said.
He added Grenier hoped to set up initial meetings with individual members of the School Committee by the end of the month.
– Article by Chris Maza