Superintendent advises staff on how to handle school shooting news

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With the nation still sorting through what occurred in the horrific school shooting in Newton, Conn. Friday, Dec. 14, Egg Harbor Township School District faculty and staff headed back to class on Monday, Dec. 17.

 At the opening of the school day, Egg Harbor Township Police Department officers made a presence at each school to help assuage nervous parents, staff and students, which most residents felt was a proper response to the news of the massacre that killed 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School students and six staff members.

Parent Kym Ocasio-Landor said she appreciated the police presence.

“I was at the elementary school today and by the time I left, there were a least three police there,” she wrote on the EHTCurrent Facebook page. “As a parent, I’m grateful. Thank you EHTPD for the extra sense of security.”

Suzanne Griffin stated in a posted comment that she was also thankful. “Glad they are there, sad that it’s under such horrible circumstances.”

 Not all residents thought the response was necessary and could have added to students’ anxiety over the news.

“Talk about overkill,” Bill Pellegrino stated in a post. “Now the kids’ heads are messed up even more.”

In advance of the return to school, Superintendent Scott McCartney emailed a letter to staff on Saturday in anticipation of likely needing to help parents, students and fellow co-workers cope.

His letter is reprinted below:

“Like so many across our country this morning, we grieve at the senseless loss of life in Connecticut.  As educators and parents our hearts are broken at the loss of our peers and children who are at the center of what we do each day.  We marvel at the courage and selfless behavior of teachers and administrators as they put students and their colleagues first even at the loss of their own lives.

“When we talk of teachers and those that dedicate their life’s work each day to care for and teach our diverse students in communities across our country it is easy to call each and every one a hero.  In our schools, we have set our theme on that very construct - being someone’s hero each day.  In Connecticut, and unfortunately, too many times across our country teachers, support staff, administrators, parents and students in our schools have also had to make the decision to take heroic action at another level to protect our students from harm. 

“This day, while we grieve, ask many questions, wait for answers, cry, and pray... I hope you will also take a few moments to recognize and lift up the heroic deeds of our colleagues in education for giving their lives in the service of protecting children.  Thank you to all of you for all you do each day for the students and community in Egg Harbor Township and those same thanks go out to our school family around the country.  God bless.

“I am sure some students and parents will be looking for comfort in our schools and our classrooms.  Perhaps this information can help.  As always, take the time to listen to your students, address their concerns and try to get back into normal routines.

“The Egg Harbor Township Schools take safety seriously and do what we can to ensure a safe environment for all to learn and work.  To that end, make sure to visit regularly and maintain our guidelines for safety in your classroom and buildings.  Our administrative teams will review our current plans and ensure everyone is up to speed and that all concerns are addressed.

“Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any needs during this difficult time.  Please lean on each other, utilize the resources in our schools and surrounding community.  Never forget that while there are so many things said about education that can be distracting, our daily goal is to love, care for, and teach every student that enters our doors.  Thank you for doing that every day... as always, you are my heroes!”

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