I trust that this email finds you all enjoying the final weeks of August. The routine of fall is closing in on us quickly, but the weather still feels like we are in the height of summer! In the midst of the harried pace of the world we live in, we strive to be a place where students can come to find safety, to build confidence in themselves, and be supported to ensure they develop socially, emotionally, and academically to their fullest capabilities. We are focused on being a place where we live out by example the statement that All Means All, bringing out the best in every one of our students each day. With that focus in mind, we are excited to welcome our students and families back as we begin another year together!
There is a great deal of information in this message, and my hope is that while the message is very long, it is helpful to have these important updates in a single message rather than multiple. As always, the summers are busy times as we close one year and prepare for the next, and these are all important updates on district wide efforts that I’d like to make you aware of. More information will be provided by the school(s) your child attends as they return to our halls next Tuesday, September 4th.
Raptor Visitor Management:
As a measure taken over the summer to improve our schools’ security, all offices are now equipped with a system called “Raptor Visitor Management”. This system provides a significant improvement in the tracking of all visitors who are coming into our schools. The implementation of this system will require some work on your part the first time you come to visit the school, and I’m respectfully asking for your patience and cooperation in the spirit of safety. The first time you come to visit the school you will need to provide an official, government issued photo ID. This ID will be scanned, and your photo and identifying information will be automatically entered into our system. Each subsequent time you enter, we will verify it is you by the photo in the system, and will produce an ID sticker with your picture, name and your destination within the building along with the date and time, and we’ll have a web based log of everyone currently in the building. We have included alerts for any known issues in the system, and all visitors are instantly SORI (sex offender registry) checked each time they check in before the badge is printed.
Again, I’ll ask for your patience and that you plan a couple of extra minutes the first time you are coming in as a visitor this year. Please remember that you will need to come with a valid photo ID. To confirm, this is the new process when you are coming into the school, beyond the main entry and office where you previously signed a book and got a visitor badge. If you are dropping off a child, or even coming into the office to drop something off you will not need to sign into the school as a visitor. However, once you are in the system, all subsequent visits will be very quick and easy. Thank you for your cooperation.
Over the summer, surveillance cameras were installed on all school campuses except for Pine Grove, as these are being installed in phases with the renovation project. You will notice signs noting this change on main entrances as you return next week. These cameras record video footage only, and not sound. You will notice these cameras and signage noting that we use video surveillance at the main entrances, as cameras are now installed in all high traffic locations around the schools, such as cafeterias, main hallways, and entrances and exit doors. We have programmed cameras to be constantly recording from an hour before school, until an hour after school, and then triggered by motion beyond those times, 24 hours per day. Office staff are also able to view live feeds of these high profile areas as well. As we look to continually improve the safety and security of our schools, I am confident these cameras will improve our ability to monitor any activity that would provide a disruption to learning, or a threat to the safety of our students and staff.
You may have likely heard by now of the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) protocol. While our planning for emergencies is very thorough, we are improving our protocol for an active shooter situation. As I notified you last year, we worked with our police departments to create a unified protocol that we have worked through, but ultimately decided that moving to the formal ALICE model is best as it has become the respected industry standard. We are currently in the process of certifying our own ALICE Certified Trainers along with members of each of the Newbury, Rowley, and Salisbury Police Departments. Once all of our faculty and staff are trained, we will begin to roll out school wide drills, starting cautiously and slowly to ensure our efforts prepare students for all possible scenarios without creating an unnecessarily heightened sense of fear. More information will be provided before even simple drills begin, but I wanted you to be aware of our progress. I anticipate being able to start school wide drills by mid fall.
The final Homework Guidelines can be found here. As you know from updates last year, these guidelines are the result of extensive work and discussion by a group of students, teachers, parents, and administrators over the course of last year. My sincere appreciation to everyone involved in the process. There was great, and often energetic debate, and in the end I believe these guidelines reflect the general beliefs of those who participated as a member of the group or through public feedback. As such, you can expect that these guidelines are followed for the homework assigned to your child(ren). This includes all aspects of the guidelines as documented, as well as expectations that may not be explicitly stated, but may conflict with the belief statement as included. Consistency in our homework practice was a key element of the discussions that yielded this document. If there are concerns about this document as a whole, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. If there is a specific question or discussion in regards to your child’s experience, please contact your child’s teacher or building principal.
School Year Calendar:
Please find an updated calendar for the school year here. The only change from the calendar approved last spring is that the Committee has formally documented the Jewish Holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah on the school calendar. These will be regular school days, but documented on our calendar for the purpose of confirming that we will refrain from assigning homework, having tests, or other expectations outside the school day for all students on these nights in September.
Results of Attitudes and Behavior “40 Assets” Survey:
Last November, 2017, all students in grades 6 through 12 had the opportunity to voluntarily and anonymously participate in a survey conducted by the Essex County Asset Builder Network (ECAB Network), a partnership of the communities of Amesbury, Georgetown, Newbury, Rowley, Salisbury and Newburyport, committed to using a positive youth development approach to providing supports and opportunities which help youth grow into successful, healthy adults. This survey, developed by the Search Institute to measure these 40 Developmental Assets, has been conducted by the Search Institute for over 25 years nationwide, and they have developed a framework of 40 “building blocks of healthy development” that can help guide adults and youth in creating better communities on behalf of young people.
The survey is a tool for the community to be able to gauge student strengths and needs. Once the data was collected, youth were the first to see the results and some of the young people went on to create a presentation that was given to community members this past spring. Some highlights from the data include that a majority of our students feel supported by their family (83%), have positive peer influences (77%), are motivated to achieve in school (78%), and have a positive view of their future (74%). The executive summary with results can be found here. Looking at our results overall, and those in our local communities, the results mirror those of our youth nationwide. This survey gave us a global picture of the Assets our youth possess, and those areas that we as a community can focus our energies on to improve their overall success.
This is not a school effort alone. The purpose of the ECAB Network is to work collaboratively with our local communities to build upon those Assets our students have, and to develop the other areas showing a need. We don’t have all the answers at the current time, but we want to continue to grow these supports both in and out of school so our young people have the most opportunities to be successful. Building supports doesn’t just happen in the schools, and this is a chance for us to expand our impact and find new ways to support our youth. If you are interested in learning more or becoming involved, please contact, Tina Los, Regional Project Coordinator for the Essex County Asset Builder Network at 978-992-1671 or firstname.lastname@example.org as she will be working with our District Wellness Committee on generating new ways to support our students.
This is a lot of information! If you have questions about anything contained above, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I wish you all a relaxing final few days of summer. Stay cool!