On May 22, the School of Education recognized the Safe and Sound Schools Co-founder

 

Baltimore, MD – May 30, 2019Safe and Sound Schools co-founder and executive director, Michele Gay received the Champion in Education Award on Wednesday, May 22 from Johns Hopkins University School of Education.  

Michele Gay, co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools, receiving the Johns Hopkins School of Education Champion In Education Award

The Champion in Education Award honors the accomplishments of an individual or organization who displays leadership and innovation in advancing the quality of education, human services, or public safety.  Recipients are identified by the sitting Dean for their contributions in the field and practice of education.  Some of the past recipients have included: Bill and Sylvia Cohen, Katherine Bradley, the Abell Foundation, and R. Christopher Hoehn-Saric.  

Michele Gay was named the 2019 recipient for her work with Safe and Sound Schools, a national school safety non-profit.  Following the loss of her daughter, Josephine Grace, in the Sandy Hook School tragedy, Gay chose to take action and established Safe and Sound Schools as a national resource for comprehensive school safety education, technical assistance, expert content, and best practices.

With a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Towson State University, Gay earned Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from McDaniel College. Prior to the Sandy Hook tragedy, she taught at the elementary level in Maryland and Virginia public schools.

Now a nationally and internationally recognized public speaker and school safety advocate, Gay reaches audiences and consults with all levels of community institutions — schools; municipalities; houses of worship; educational and public safety leadership; state and federal governments; and law enforcement agencies.  Gay is a regular contributor for top news media outlets. She has been featured on PBS Newshour, CBS Face the Nation, among other international publications.  

Gay’s impassioned position on school safety hinges on every community taking a comprehensive and sustainable approach to safety. She works diligently to unite stakeholders of all disciplines and perspectives. An educator by training — and fueled by the heart of a mother and community member — Gay is uniquely positioned to help others prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from tragedies of their own.

Michele Gay remains inspired by Josephine, every day. She dedicates herself to honoring her daughter’s memory through this work to ensure that every school, every child, and every community is truly safe and sound.

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About Safe and Sound Schools

Michele Gay and Alissa Parker founded Safe and Sound Schools in 2013, following the tragic deaths of their children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Safe and Sound Schools works with school communities and mental health, law enforcement, and safety professionals to create and ensure the safest possible learning environment for all youth. The non-profit organization delivers crisis-prevention, response, and recovery programs, tools, and resources, backed by national experts, to educate all members of the school community, from students and parents, to teachers and administrators, to law enforcement and local leaders. Winner of the 2015 New England Business Association Innovation Award for nonprofits, Safe and Sound Schools continues to answer the growing needs of school communities with custom programs, assessments, and training, reaching schools in every state in the country. For more information, visit www.safeandsoundschools.org.

About Johns Hopkins University School of Education

Established in 2007, the Johns Hopkins School of Education has quickly taken its place as a national leader in education reform through research and teaching. Grounded in the Johns Hopkins tradition of research and innovation, SOE is ranked among the top graduate schools of education in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

https://education.jhu.edu/about-us/fact-sheet/

 

Throughout the months of January, February, and March, the Safe and Sound team collectively traveled to 20 U.S. cities, plus a stop in Canada, reaching over 5,000 people.

Safe and Sound Schools kicked off 2019 with New Year, New Sound at Kellogg’s in New York City! With a new twist on New Year’s resolutions, Safe and Sound Schools invited teens to sound off on school safety. Teens gathered for an evening of music and fun, and shared their New Year’s school safety resolutions. Michele was joined by celebrity guest and actor Jeremy Ray Taylor. Jeremy discussed school culture, “sparking” kindness, and encouraged everyone in attendance to join the growing Safe and Sound national movement. He echoed that sentiment in a PSA for Safe and Sound Schools. Also in attendance, were members of the band Chasing DaVinici – Jeddi, Jessi, Josephine and Josiah. The band debuted an original song, “Good Days,” dedicated to Safe and Sound Schools. The evening was certainly one for the books!

With New Year, New Sound setting the tone for 2019, the Safe and Sound team hit the ground running in the months that followed. While our in-house team continued preparations and planning for the inaugural National Summit on School Safety, Safe and Sound Schools’ team of speakers traveled from coast to coast, presenting in states like Pennsylvania, Colorado, Ohio, Indiana, California, Florida, and Arizona. For a full list, scroll to the bottom of this blog.

In March, hundreds of school safety professionals convened in Houston, Texas, to attend the inaugural National Summit on School Safety, a two-day conference co-hosted by Safe and Sound Schools and Region 4 Education Service Center. The conference focused on comprehensive school safety, providing attendees with opportunities to learn about the six key areas of comprehensive school safety. With more than 30 presenters and panelists in attendance, attendees were able to listen to keynotes, attend workshops, and participate in a series of group roundtable discussions. For a full recap, click here.

Although New Year, New Sound and the National Summit on School Safety were certainly the biggest highlights of the first quarter, here other highlights that helped make our first quarter one to remember:

  • With the generous support of our partner, Door Security and Safety Foundation, Safe and Sound Schools produced a short education video about door safety.
  • Safe and Sound Schools welcomed Bark as an organization partner.
  • Azia Celestino joined Safe and Sound Schools’ media relations team. Azia was key in helping the organization plan New Year, New Sound and the National Summit on School Safety. We are fortunate to have a media savvy go-getter on our team!
  • Miss Green Wave Teen 2019, Cameron Fox, joined Charlie Hobin as a Safe and Sound Schools teen ambassador.
  • After months of preparations, the Safe and Sound Parent Council program training officially took flight!
  • Safe and Sound Schools launched new research for 2019, surveying students, educators, and public safety officials in efforts to gain new perspectives on the state of school safety in the country today. Results will be shared later this month!

Now for a full list of first quarter travels…

January

  • Jan. 4, NY – Michele Gay, with the help of Kellogg’s, hosts New Year, New Sound in New York City.
  • Jan. 7-8, PA  – Melissa Reeves holds threat assessment workshops in Lancaster.
  • Jan. 9-10, MA – Frank DeAngelis presents for Masconomet High School.
  • Jan. 13-14, CA – Frank DeAngelis attends a conference in Menlo Park.
  • Jan. 23, MN – Frank DeAngelis presents Leadership Lesson from Columbine and Beyond Minnesota Juvenile Officers Association in Duluth.
  • Jan. 29, MS – Frank DeAngelis presents for the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents in Jackson.

February

  • Feb. 15, CO – Frank DeAngelis presents for the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab in Denver.
  • Feb. 19-20, CA – Frank DeAngelis attends the CAHF Really Ready 5 Conference in Anaheim.
  • Feb. 27, CO – Alissa presents in Denver with the support of Allegion.
  • Feb. 27, NY – Frank DeAngelis presents for the Corning-Painted Post Area School District in Painted Post.

March

  • Mar. 1, FL – Michele Gay presents School Safety: A Parent’s Perspective for the National School Systems Contractors Association in Tampa.
  • Mar. 6, OH – Scott Poland presents on youth suicide and threat assessment for South-Western City School District in Grove City.
  • Mar. 8, Canada – Frank DeAngelis presents Leadership Lesson from Columbine and Beyond for the  Saskatchewan Association of Police Affiliated Victim Services (SAPAVS) in Saskatoon.
  • Mar. 11, MA – Alissa Parker and Frank DeAngelis present for the Burlington Police Department.
  • Mar. 13, AR – Michele Gay presents School Safety: A Parent’s Perspective for the Arkansas Mental Health in Education (ARMEA) Annual Conference in Little Rock.
  • Mar. 18, KY – Michele Gay and Melissa Reeves hold workshops for Muhlenberg County Schools in Powderly.
  • Mar. 21, NY – Frank DeAngelis presents Leadership Lesson from Columbine and Beyond the University of Buffalo/Utica National Insurance Group in Buffalo.
  • Mar. 22, PA – Michele Gay presents Beyond Tragedy: Response and Recovery in a School Based Crisis for Friends of Safe Schools USA-Pennsylvania in Washington.
  • Mar. 29-30, TX – Safe and Sound and team travel to Houston to host the inaugural National Summit on School Safety.

Don’t forget to follow us on social media for day-to-day updates on all things Safe and Sound.

 

BFGCF Welcomes It’s Second Year of Partnership Supporting Safe and Sound Maryland

Building for God Community Foundation has announced the start of its second year of partnership with Safe and Sound Schools. This comes as part of the Foundation’s Champion in Life Partnership Program, in which select non-profit organizations are selected to receive professional leadership support and capital resources for the purpose of developing, implementing and growing a specific program, which in this case is Safe and Sound Maryland. The capital resources come in the form of a $20,000 recurring grant award that matches individual, corporate, and foundation gifts for five years.

During the first year of the partnership, Safe and Sound Maryland provided dedicated trainings, workshops, and education programs exclusively for Maryland school districts. In the 2018 State of School Safety report, Safe and Sound Schools found that nearly all parents and educators surveyed want their school to take extra steps in school security, but don’t necessarily have the expertise, resources, or training available. The Safe and Sound Maryland program, primarily funded by the Building for God Community Foundation, directly addresses this need for all the families in Maryland.

“Partnering with the experts from the Safe and Sound Schools team has allowed us to strengthen our schools’ abilities to guard against a wide variety of threats,” said Michael O. Brooks, Founder and Chairman of the Building for God Community Foundation. “With a recurring grant, we can be true collaborators, working together, year over year, to positively and measurably change the lives of students, teachers, staff, parents, and administrators in our schools in our local community and throughout our entire state.”

In 2018, Safe and Sound Maryland reached 12 districts, covering 600 elementary, middle and high schools, with the power to impact 400,000 students. For 2019, Safe and Sound Maryland will focus on recruiting parents and students to implement local school safety initiatives to meet the unique needs of each community.

“Building for God Community Foundation is a true leader in the community, giving its resources to selflessly support Maryland schools,” said Michele Gay, executive director and co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools. “We are grateful to be entering into the second year of our partnership with the Building for God Community Foundation and look forward to not only furthering the initiatives begun in Maryland, but positioning the state as an example for other school districts to follow, nationwide.”

The $20,000 grant award will match individual donations, as well as corporate and foundation gifts. To make a donation, visit www.safeandsoundschools.org/support/donate/. For more information about Safe and Sound Schools, including free assessment tools, tool kits and resources, visit www.safeandsoundschools.org.

For more information on Building for God Community Foundation, its programs and events, the Champion in Life Partnership Program, and the local nonprofit organizations the Foundation supports, visit www.buildingforgod.org.

About Building for God Community Foundation

Founded in 2007, Building for God Community Foundation’s mission is to affect a positive and determined impact in our local community in the areas of sheltering the homeless, feeding and caring for families, fostering the educational needs of our youth, and supporting those who protect our community. Since its founding, Building for God Community Foundation has supported many local nonprofits through its Champion in Life Grant Award, which distributes grant funds to support deserving organizations in our community. For more information, visit www.buildingforgod.org

Safe and Sound Schools is proud to participate in Teacher Appreciation Week. In honor of this week’s celebrations, we’re turning the spotlight to recognize our very own, Michele Gay. Many of you know Michele as one of the founders of Safe and Sound Schools – and of course, mother to Joey, Marie, and Sophie. What you may not know is that prior to founding Safe and Sound Schools, Michele taught in the Maryland and Virginia Public Schools, where she served as both an elementary classroom teacher, a mentor teacher and a peer coach.

Q: What inspired you to get into teaching?

A:  It was my family. I grew up in a family of educators.  My father was a school counselor. My mother was a teacher and principal. As a kid, I marveled at how hard my parents worked. Too hard, I thought!  But the impact they had on so many children and families was undeniable. It was inspiring. It tugged at my heart until I found myself working with children as a high school student and ultimately deciding to pursue a teaching career myself. The real clincher was the students themselves. Once I saw what they had to teach me, how exciting it was to watch a new skill take hold or a new idea light within their eyes, I was done. Teaching was it for me!

Q: What were some of the most rewarding aspects of being a teacher?

A:  The time I got to spend with so many incredible young people was undoubtedly the most rewarding part of the job. Every day was an adventure. Every child was uniquely gifted and challenged. It was incredible to be a small part of the journey of so many amazing people.

Q: What is one your fondest memories as a teacher?

A:  My fondest memories are of laughing with my students. The science experiments gone awry, the unexpected answers, the serious moments that turned into unstoppable giggle-fests, the unscripted moments of kids being themselves–they were the best.

Those moments where a hard-earned victory was achieved top the list, too.  Like when the furrowed brow of concentration on a child’s face gave way to the beaming excitement of discovery or long-awaited accomplishment. Nothing’s better than watching someone learn that they CAN do something they thought impossible.

Q: What was your biggest challenge as a teacher?

A:  Time. Without a doubt. There was just never enough of it to meet all of the goals and objectives on the list for each day, plus the grading, and the testing, and the meetings, phone calls and continuing education. Like lots of teachers, I’d trim time off of my lunch, stay late after school, and still have to bring work home. Don’t get me wrong–I signed up for it. All of it! But I always wished there was more time for relationship building, teaching, and listening and learning from one another in every school day.

Q: Teachers can change lives. They play pivotal roles in shaping minds and inspiring their students. Can you tell us about a teacher that made a lasting impact in your life?

A:  There were quite a few. “Miss Terry,” my third-grade teacher always comes to mind first.  After a really rough second grade, I landed in her class and was greeted with the immediate comfort of a safe place.  She created an environment where it was okay to make mistakes, ask for help, laugh out loud, and most importantly, to admit when you were wrong. She modeled all of those things for us every day. She gave us all that we needed to learn–and then she got out of the way. I continue to go back to those lessons throughout my life as a teacher, a mom, a wife, and an advocate.  

Q: You’ve transitioned from educating children to educating an older crowd as part of your work for Safe and Sound Schools. What aspects from you career as a teacher do you use in your work today?

A:  See answer above! Seriously, I am lucky to work with the most dedicated people you can imagine.  Teachers, school staff, police, fire, emergency managers and responders, school-based mental health professionals, architects, community leaders, parents, and students–and on and on–that want school to be the safe place it has to be to serve our students and the future of our country.  My work today is really just another kind of teaching. The students are much bigger and the conversations are a bit more complicated, but we are working together to solve for safety. My job is simply to guide the process and see what kind of amazing things they come up with.

I had the privilege recently of returning to work with a group to whom I delivered a reunification workshop for a few years ago. I still cannot get over how much incredible work they have done since our workshop together. I just provided the training, tools and a little inspiration. Everything else was all them.  And judging by my recent visit, they are only just getting started. If I hadn’t chosen teaching all those years ago, I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to step into this new role and move forward from tragedy in such a positive way.

The decision to become a teacher has been a blessing many times over in my life. Today, it gives me great appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the educators I work with, and deep gratitude for the teachers who have touched and shaped my own children’s lives.  


Teacher Appreciation Week is observed from May 5-11 this year. Please take some time to recognize the teachers in your community – click here for ideas and facts.

On behalf of everyone at Safe and Sound Schools, we’d like to thank all teachers for their outstanding contributions and efforts to educate, inspire, and keep our kids safe and sound.

 

In late March, hundreds of school safety professionals convened in Houston, Texas, to attend the inaugural National Summit on School Safety, a two-day conference co-hosted by Safe and Sound Schools and Region 4 Education Service Center. The conference focused on comprehensive school safety, providing attendees with opportunities to learn about topics ranging from threat assessment and emergency planning to mental health and school safety funding. With more than 30 presenters and panelists in attendance, attendees were able to listen to keynotes, attend workshops, and participate in a series of intimate roundtable discussions.

Read on for a detailed summary of the event. As you can imagine, with two jam-packed days, there’s a lot to cover.

After introductory remarks by Dr. Pam Wells and Chief Alan Bragg, Michele Gay and Alissa Parker led the first keynote of the conference. This was the first time in five years Michele and Alissa shared the stage. They shared memories of their daughters, Joey and Emily, before walking the audience through the tragic events at Sandy Hook. Their primary message for attendees: rethink school safety – together.

The day proceeded with an agenda full of workshops focusing on the six key components of comprehensive school safety: (1) physical environment (2) operations and emergency management (3) mental and behavioral health (4) health and wellness (5) culture, climate, and community (6) school law, policy and finance. Attendees were able to participate in three workshop sessions throughout the day before ending the day with small roundtable discussion sessions. Presenters included:

  • Dr. CJ Huff – Former Superintendent of Joplin Schools and child advocate
  • Susan Payne – Founder of Safe2Tell and 28-year law enforcement veteran
  • Lisa Hamp – Survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting and school safety advocate
  • Bernie James – Professor of Law Specializing in Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, and Education Law
  • John-Michael Keyes – Founder and Executive Director of The “I Love U Guys” Foundation
  • Scarlett Lewis – Founder of Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement and social emotional learning advocate
  • Paul Timm – VP of Facility Engineering Associates, Physical Security Professional, Author

For the full list of workshop presenters, click here.

Safe and Sound Schools and Region 4 welcomed another full house on day two of the conference, starting the morning with the Beyond Columbine panel, featuring:

  • Jim Accomando, President of the National Parent Teacher Association
  • Dr. Melissa Reeves, Past President of the National Association of School Psychologists
  • Dr. CJ Huff, Former Superintendent of the Joplin, Missouri Schools
  • Mo Canady, Executive Director of the National Association of School Resource Officers
  • John-Michael Keyes, Father of Emily Keyes, Executive Director of the I Love U Guys Foundation
  • Natalie Hammond, Surviving Sandy Hook Teacher
  • Patrick Ireland, Surviving Columbine Student
  • Charlie Hobin, Student Leader, Bend, Oregon

Mo Canady focused the importance of school resource officers and building relationships while Natalie Hammond and Patrick Ireland shared the importance of support systems during recovery. John-Michael Keyes and Dr. Melissa Reeves echoed Natalie and Patrick’s thoughts and discussed trauma. Dr. Melissa emphasized that trauma is a life-long journey and advocated for life-long support post-tragedy. CJ Huff shared the importance of self-care after a tragedy while Jim Accomando urged parents to have a seat at the table. Charlie Hobin concluded the panel session with a message for students: get involved and spread kindness.

“My failure as a leader during the disaster was I did not take care of myself. Now I understand the need to be a role model of SELF CARE.” – Dr. CJ Huff

After another series of roundtable discussion sessions, the day continued with a second panel focused on tools and technology, featuring:

  • Anthony LaValle, Industry Expert & Founder, ReportIt
  • Titania Jordan, Industry Expert & Chief Parent Officer, Bark Technologies
  • Bruce Canal, Industry Expert & Director Industry Associations, Axis Communications
  • Rania Mankarious, Chief Executive Officer, Crime Stoppers of Houston
  • Dr. Catherine Finger, Industry Expert & Business Development Manager, NaviGate Prepared
  • Erin Wilson, Industry Expert and Door Security & Safety Foundation Ambassador

Panelists discussed available tools and technology for safer schools with panel moderator Paul Timm encouraging people not to give up on technology as part of a comprehensive safety plan. Panelists also emphasized the need for community like-mindedness, supporting school culture, building partnerships and remembering that although helpful, technology is not your only line of defense.

“It’s not always a technological solution…there’s security management, behavioral, leaning on your relationships, your friends… it’s important that you realize you have a world of knowledge.” – Bruce Canal, Industry Expert & Director Industry Associations, Axis Communications

Former Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis and Columbine survivor Patrick Ireland closed the summit with an inspiring, tear-jerking, and powerful keynote that brought the audience to a standing ovation. Frank DeAngelis walked the audience through the Columbine tragedy and illustrated the powerful and lasting relationships he built with his students throughout his career. As Patrick Ireland shared his experience and journey toward recovery, he left the audience with four key takeaways:

(1) People at generally good in nature. (2) With perseverance we can all achieve greatness. (3) We have a choice of being a victor or victim. (4) There is tremendous power in forgiveness.

This summit was made possible with the generous support of our partners and the collective effort between the Region 4 and Safe and Sound Schools team. Thank you to everyone that joined us in Houston!

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