Message from Superintendent on School Safety

Dear Newton Community,

As I was sending my children off to school this morning, I could not help but think about what other parents were feeling as they were sending their children back to school after the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. We each process this heartbreaking event in different ways as we try to come to terms with the unimaginable.

Over the course of the day, I visited classrooms and checked in with administrators across the district. As I expected, our highly skilled and dedicated faculty and staff did a remarkable job implementing the plans that were developed over the weekend to ensure that the day was largely filled with normal routines. I also observed our mental health professionals working to support students who were struggling today as well as families with questions.

I want to assure families that we take your children’s safety and the security of their schools very seriously. We are thoughtful and vigilant as we review and practice emergency protocols with students and staff throughout the year. We work closely with the police and other public safety and health officials to address school safety and security. Earlier today, I spoke with both Mayor Setti Warren and Acting Police Chief Howard Mintz and have asked the police department to review all of our safety procedures and systems within the next several weeks.

Every school in the district has an emergency plan that is reviewed by the Building Safety Team. Principals ensure that all staff are aware of and trained to respond to any crisis, including lockdowns, shelter in place, and evacuations. At the elementary and middle school levels, we have instituted a keyless entry system, and installed new locks and window shades for classroom doors. All doors, except for the main door, are locked. In addition to these measures, at the high school level, we have put in numerous security cameras in key locations. The District Safety Team will be meeting this week to review our current plans.

As President Obama stated last night, the challenges in addressing such shocking events are multi-faceted and complex. We need to do everything possible to ensure that we provide not only safety and security for our students, faculty and staff, but also to provide first-rate mental health, social and emotional support. Our goal is to make everyone in the Newton community feel as safe and secure as possible when they send their children to school.

Finally, a number of people have asked how we can come together as a City at such a difficult time. I want to let you know that there will be a vigil at the War Memorial at City Hall on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. to honor the victims from Newtown. As we remember the children and adults from Sandy Hook, let us also wish for a peaceful 2013.

David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools