Safe and Sound Schools
Empowering a Nation of Safer School Communities
Safe and Sound Schools

School Safety–Through the Lens of the Superintendent of Schools, Newtown, CT

I was honored in January 2014 to be appointed by the Newtown Board of Education as their new superintendent.
When I had the opportunity to thank the school board, I chose my words carefully and shared with all in attendance that my short and long term plan would be to always respect the past, work hard in the present, and with the entire community, plan the future.
I have used this simple credo to intrinsically challenge my work every day since my arrival to Newtown in April 2014.
I have a passion for children and opportunity.
I feel strongly that the power of outstanding teaching and learning must take place in a safe and secure environment.
I worry about safety daily.
This district must make a difference one student, staff member, and parent at a time.  This district, like all districts, must be able to impact not most or many, but every student, staff member, and parent.
In the ever-changing landscape of Public School America, there remains one constant pertaining to safety:  the absolute best plan is always a plan in progress.  Incrementally, every community must work towards completing their plan; however, I would worry about any district who believes their work is complete.
How well do we know our most complex students and staff? How well do we know our most complex parents and community members? How well do we know our emergency protocols?  How hard have we worked to harden our buildings?
I would reach out to every school leader across the country and ask each of you to never ever get comfortable with safety.  Always challenge all entities of your district with best practice……..all of the time.

Dr. Joseph V. Erardi, Superintendent of Schools, Newtown, CT

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Emotional Paralysis

It’s that feeling that comes over some of us in a moment of crisis or maybe in its aftermath. An inability to move, think, or even speak. Breathing is difficult, standing up causes dizziness. The ground is all that you can hold onto. You are not in control of your mind and body.

I felt it wafting over me on December 14th, 2012 but, I willed it away. I scurried about the firehouse and school parking lot, looking to help others, busying myself with task after task to avoid sitting in that reality for more than a moment. I have managed to keep it at bay for all of this time.

I have pushed through every trauma “trigger” that threatened to paralyze me this year. The flashing lights of police cars, the sounds of ambulance sirens speeding by, the sight of my daughters’ boarded up elementary school, Joey’s birthday, the holidays, and the anniversary. I even sent out Christmas cards with one daughter unnaturally absent. I was determined to defy those triggers and mile markers. I still am.

What I didn’t count on is the sense of walking through quicksand that I am feeling these last few days. I am taken by surprise, caught off guard.

No amount of hard work can take away what happened to my youngest daughter and my family that day. That is what threatens to paralyze me.

So I close my eyes (I can actually type this way), and remember one of the last things I said to my daughter. “I love you and I won’t give up. Ever.”

The couch and the blanket are looking really good right now. But I made a promise…

And all of you who said you would help me had better get ready. It’s on days like today that Alissa and I are counting on your support. Whether through prayer or encouragement, your efforts in your own community, or by making a donation to our mission, we need to know that we are not in this alone.

Looking at the work ahead, I have to remind myself again of that promise I made to Josephine.

So I’m casting off the blanket and climbing off of the couch now… You with me?

MG

 

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