The following message to the Holmdel School Community was posted on the district website Friday from Superintendent Barbara Duncan.
“Our hearts are broken…but our spirit is strong.” - The Community of Newtown
A week has gone by, and still there are no words that adequately describe the anguish felt by us all, no way to make sense of this senseless act, and no answers to the most difficult question of all: why?
Last week’s events have, no doubt, sparked renewed debate across this land about many things, including gun control, mental health treatment, and of course, school security.
At Wednesday night’s BOE meeting, a number of parents expressed concern about our district’s preparedness for such an event. Some wondered if we practiced these “active shooter” scenarios they heard about on television; others wondered whether we shouldn’t have a more prominent, if not permanent, police presence in all of our buildings; still others lamented the perceived breakdown in communication throughout last weekend.
All of these things, I suppose, are to be expected when faced with such unspeakable horror, and I am not sure, even today, that we will ever be able to answer all of these questions to everyone’s satisfaction. But one thing I do know, with certainty, is that the Holmdel schools, are SAFE places for your children.
Even before it was a state mandate for schools to do so, we have been practicing these “active shooter” scenarios--we even brought in the Monmouth County SWAT team (which includes three members from our Holmdel PD) a few years ago to conduct a real-time simulation at the high school. Additionally, and with the assistance of our police department, we regularly conduct threat assessments of all types in our building, always looking to refine our potential response. There is no doubt in my mind that our students and staff are well prepared should such an event ever take place on our grounds.
This is not to say we can’t be even more prepared, and to that end, I, along with our administrative team, met yesterday with the mayor, police chief and other ranking members of our police department in an effort to be even more proactive. We agreed it is more important than ever that these “active shooter” drills continue, maybe not in the next few weeks, but certainly before the school year ends. We agreed to conduct regular monthly meetings to evaluate our emergency preparedness around the district, and we agreed to conduct additional threat assessments of all sorts. Most important, I think, we recognized the critical importance of “being on the same page”, with each other and with the community, when it comes to the safety of our children and we pledged to redouble our efforts at communicating clearly, accurately and regularly.
As a superintendent, and as a mom, last week’s events in Newtown are about the worst thing I could ever imagine. But if anything good could ever come out of something so terribly bad, it would be this: the renewed realization that our children are our most precious commodity, and that their safety and well-being will ALWAYS be our first priority. In that spirit, I welcome any and all suggestions you may have to help in this area.
On behalf of everyone here in the Holmdel School District, I extend best wishes for a truly happy and healthy holiday season spent with family and friends.