Wednesday, February 6, 2019

School Safety Update February 2019

School Safety Update
February 2019

I am writing to summarize the outcomes from our February 5th Early Release Day ALICE training facilitated by Josh Otey, Bristol Police, and Matt Tatro, Shelburne Police. ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate is an augmentation of our current practice and is based on two decades worth of research on what practices increase the odds of survival in these types of emergencies.  ALICE is a nationally recognized program that provides response options based situations encountered during violent intrusions so as to respond in the most effective way possible.
This training is a continuation of an ANWSD’s focus on school safety and security which included upgrades to our facilities to enhance school security including new door lock  systems and security cameras. In addition, we have restructured our school district safety/crisis teams to include a Public Safety Team including many of our area Police, Fire, and Emergency professionals. Our Public Safety Team will hold their first meeting in follow up to this training on May 7. Meanwhile, our District Safety team continues to update our ANWSD Safety Plan to include these elements.
Currently, the schools conduct lockdown and evacuation drills with students such as fire drills, or routine building evacuations.  These drills will continue. Meanwhile, we will extend staff training to include all elements of ALICE including situational scenario drills which will occur in June 2019. While these types of drills surface emotional issues, we are obligated to support staff in developing skills which will increase our confidence and competency for emergency preparedness. Included in our long-range planning will be age- appropriate awareness training for our students. These trainings have not yet occurred and we will communicate with parents in advance of these taking place.

ALICE reminds staff that while our emergency responders are often considered “first responders” those of us in the crisis zone are truly the first to create a response. A summary of the ALICE responses are as follows (not sequential!).

A -Alert is overcoming denial, recognizing the signs of danger and receiving notifications about the danger from others
  • Information is the key to good decision-making
  • Alerts should be accepted, taken seriously, and should help you make survival decisions based on your circumstances
  • Shift from using codes or a generic call for a lockdown to more specific information (e.g. “Armed Intruder in the main lobby”)
  • Respond quickly. Seconds count

L -Lockdown  
Purpose: To allow for an aggressive use of current technology and procedures to create an enhanced lockdown response.
  • Continue to monitor and assess the situation

  • Use furniture in the room to barricade the entrance to the room

  • Look for alternate escape routes

I -Inform
Purpose: To continually communicate the intruder’s  whereabouts using direct and clear language.
  • Knowledge is the key to survival

  • To inform students/teachers of the whereabouts so they can decide whether to barricade or flee

  • Information can distract the intruder

  • Know that a primary communicator’s ability to continually inform  may be compromised; act accordingly
Purpose: To apply skills to distract, confuse and gain control.
  • Create noise, movement, distance and distraction with the intent of reducing the shooter’s ability to shoot accurately

  • Disrupt the OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) through noise, movement, distance, distractions, thrown objects
  • Physically overwhelm the intruder

Purpose: To remove as many people as possible from the danger zone to minimize targets of opportunity.
  • Only 2% of incidents involve more than 1 shooter
  • Provide students with the ability and permission to evacuate – using strategies like breaking windows to escape.
  • Remove as many potential targets as possible

Frequently Asked Questions

Does ALICE replace our current crisis commands (Clear the Halls, Lock Out, Lock Down, Evacuate, Shelter in Place)?

No. ALICE provides response options based situations encountered during violent intrusions so as to respond in the most effective way possible. The other school commands are still needed for any number of other school emergencies. Clear the Halls would be used for things like medical emergencies, Lock Out would be used for notification of things like a bank robbery or of other suspicious activities in our area, Lock Down might be needed for other emergencies, Evacuate would be used for a whole school relocation due to fire or other building issues, and Shelter in Place might be used in the event of road closure preventing access to our facilities or sudden weather issues like flooding. (see link)

Will we get more ALICE training?  

Yes. It is our plan to provide opportunities to practice in each school setting later this school year and to make these drills a regular part of our emergency response planning.

Will we train students in these methods?

Yes, we will create a plan to train students to practice in age-appropriate ways once we have successfully supported staff through these practices. We will share research and resources prior to taking this step and communicate clearly with parents about our intention to do so. The school and district safety teams will support the development of this training plan.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Where to Begin?

For some, the dialogue around what to do about our declining enrollment is limited to which school we should close. I would argue that is the wrong conversation for us to have. Foremost, that begins the conversation with an adversarial stance where we create winners and losers. In that scenario, our focus remains on what we don’t want and most of our energy is placed on reacting to, or even preventing the change idea.

Act 46 affords us the opportunity to think differently; to prioritize what we do want for all learners across our system. When we focus on what we want to create as opposed to what we don’t want to lose, our focus shifts to possibilities and desired outcomes. This generative process helps tackle habits of thinking that might be holding us back. One such habit of thinking is our current configuration of students. Because we currently group students across four buildings in three clusters of K-6, and one cluster of 7-12, our thinking going forward tends to hold this as a fixed idea. This fixed mindset is what causes us to believe that our only option is to close a school since enrollment is dropping dangerously low. I encourage us to focus not on the four buildings but rather on our PreK-12th grade students and ask; What do we most hope to achieve by any change possibility? Once we are clear on our goals and objectives, the way we use the four buildings in our district to leverage the change possibility will become clear.

One such priority moving forward could be to focus on building up our strong Middle School model to expand opportunities for young adolescents in our district. In 2009, Vermont’s Middle School Task force convened to create a research backed road map for schools to fully address the unique needs of early adolescent learners (ages 10-15). In their publication Middle School is Not A Building, they helped us to understand this unique time in the life of our young people as “one filled with extraordinary potential, excitement, and challenge”. The rapid and dramatic development of life at this stage - intellectually, socio-emotionally and physically - encourages these students to ask rich questions about themselves and the world around them. In truth, nearly every conclusion students draw about themselves and their place in the world is made during this critical time in their lives. They develop habits of living that can either enhance their future possibilities or create barriers to their success. Certainly our world has only become more complicated since this was first published; and the needs of our youth even more complex.

We have the opportunity to embrace this challenge and build a system that addresses these complex needs more fully. Fortuitously, this comes at a time when we are transforming the educational experience of our High School students through developing strong student-centered approaches to learning which include robust flexible pathways such as Early College, Dual Enrollment, and internships. Laying a strong foundation in Middle School will support students in taking full advantage of these options as they continue in our system. Carving out distinct identities (5-8, 9-12) as we pursue both these priorities makes sense. We currently have middle school age students in all four of our buildings. I can think of no greater gift to give these young learners than a place to call their own; surrounded by adults committed and supported in creating an ideal learning environment for this watershed moment in the lives of our learners.

Restructuring Middle and High School leaves us open to many possibilities at the Primary Level. For example, rather than replicating the learning experience across our elementary schools we could carve out unique identities that provide true options and choice for parents and families. Taking advantage of an outdoor learning environment in one location, while building a state of the art makerspace in another are two unique approaches to science learning. Both achieve the same ends but through different means. In this way we can build a greater variety of options more affordably. It is also an attractive draw for families considering a move to our area which may help to address declining enrollment.

While these are only ideas, I think they model the kind of thinking necessary for us to take full advantage of this unique time in our district. We have a highly-skilled staff, a wonderfully supportive school board and community, talented administrators, and an engaged student body. We also have four buildings in top shape for many years to come. These are the ingredients for a successful innovation if we can remain open to ideas and possibilities. Let’s remain curious about the concepts, and issues we are facing so we can be open to new information and stay on the lookout for innovative options that can be put into practice so as to truly bring even better outcomes for our students.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

You Got This!

 I know this might be a bit of a sleepless night for many of you, as you wonder or worry if you have thought of everything needed to make tomorrow a success.  Turns out that people who research such things have concluded that it matters less how you have prepared, and more how talk to yourself and how you envision your success. Planning matters; but reminding yourself, "You can do this" matters more. 

No matter how your day goes tomorrow remember that you truly do make a difference in the lives of students every day, and that the little things that are not quite perfect won't really matter in the long run. What will matter is that you show your students that you believe in their abilities and that you are committed to their success; that you help students to develop a growth mindset by modeling the same. 

Smile, laugh, have fun, and work hard. You got this! 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Collaboration as an Essential Tool for Educators

Hands making equipment Free Photo

Why Teamwork is Essential

Schools are complex organizations responsible for an important function in society; educating our young people. Over time the focus of this essential work has shifted from a collection of individuals doing various jobs to carry out that responsibility; to a system with structures purposefully designed to maximize the impact of our efforts. We see this mirrored in our standards- which even in our recent past were organized around discrete and often disconnected grade level expectations, to a present day focus on our students' ability to apply their learning to solve problems, communicate, and integrate knowledge across content areas. This shift serves as a symbol that it is the combination of our efforts that must be the center of our focus. We educate our students in a School System, and therefore must work to understand how our individual responsibilities fit within the broader context of the organization's mission to fulfill the promise of a 21st Century education for our students.
I have always been highly collaborative in my approach to work. I love to solve problems and am not shy about articulating my ideas and stuck points in any given situation. I believe this openness to learn from others help me to improve, and increases the likelihood that my efforts will positively impact the students and community I serve. It is important to me as a collaborative leader that I help others to grow in their own capacity to lead and I do that by investing time in building relationships, empowering individuals to handle conflict in a constructive manner, problem solving, and building systems and structures that foster shared decision making.
Is it as important to consider how one can benefit from teamwork, as it is to improve in one's ability to contribute as a member of a team. According to the Sandler Institute, the benefits of teamwork include the following:

1. Teams Foster Creativity and Learning

Members of a team generally solve problems in more creative ways than individuals working alone. Teamwork builds shared language and skills that improve the organization over time. Working together can also build enthusiasm toward the work in new ways. 

2. Teams Blend Complementary Strengths

Each individual in an organization brings unique talents, interests, and strengths. Collaboration allows those talents to be recognized and brought to the fore in ways that benefit the organization as a whole. As team members come to understand others' view and approach, one's own ability to think through  to solution expands. 

3. Collaboration Builds Trust

Trust is the foundation of an organization, but individuals need opportunities to build relationships. Relying on others in this way helps to ensure that the organization can weather disagreements or tough decisions. Effective teams build a bond and feeling of safety that allows ideas to emerge and builds confidence both within and outside the organization. 

4. Collaboration Improves Conflict Resolution Skills

When work is tough, conflicts will naturally emerge. Working regularly as a team helps individuals manage conflicts without relying on administration. This capacity frees up the organization to spend the most time on topics that matter to overall continuous improvement on behalf of our students. 

5. Teaming Promotes Collective Efficacy

Team projects encourage staff to take ownership of outcomes. Tackling obstacles and creating meaning together builds pride and commitment. Teaming is a mutually beneficial endeavor that impacts staff, leaders and most of all, students. 

Man jump through the gap between jumping over cliff on sunset background,Business concept idea Free Photo

6. Encourages Healthy Risk-Taking

As the saying goes, "If we keep doing what we always have, we will keep getting what we have always got".  An organization focused only on a current reality will never create a new paradigm for teaching and learning- critical for student success in the 21st Century. Through teamwork, transformational ideas can emerge and take root.  Organizations focused on teaming bring about the best "outside the box" ideas for students. 
     Our work is often demanding and difficult. I understand that asking for an increased focus on teamwork and collaboration can seem like asking for "more". However investing in "the team" overall pays dividends toward one's own work with students. And being part of a highly functional team is rewarding in unimaginable ways.  As we begin the the new school year, focus on the the kind of organization you want to be a part of. What strengths can you bring to the organization? What will you learn? How will you grow? How will your work be enhanced? Where we are headed next remains to be seen- but let's go together. 
If You Want To Go Fast Go Alone If You Want To Go Far Go Together Stock Vector - 81699396

School Safety Update February 2019

School Safety Update February 2019 I am writing to summarize the outcomes from our February 5th Early Release Day ALICE training faci...