Sunday, March 17, 2019

March 17 Update

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope you are well.  I, like many of you, am saddened by the news of the New Zealand mosque shooting that broke yesterday morning. I was reminded of the personal impact these events have on our children, in particular those of Muslim faith, when several Muslim students came to the main office to share their concerns. We talked for a short time and I hope I was able to reassure them, first of all, that we are safe at McCall. We have first responders nearby, and law enforcement officials were in the process of heightening security around mosques. More importantly, I hope that I communicated that we care about our students. They did the right thing by seeking out a trusted adult; and we have staff, like our counseling staff, ready and willing to listen to students who may have questions or strong feelings about this event.

I would also like to inform everyone that Monday, March 18 is an early release day.  Students will be dismissed at 12:00 pm.  We are adjusting our morning schedule in order to accomplish two important tasks.  The first is an assembly we have planned to review with all students the building’s safety procedures.  Even though we discussed this information with students at the start of the school year, the building’s Incident Management Team (IMT), town’s safety officials such as Officer Perenick from the police department and Captain Tustin from the Fire Department believe it is important for all students and staff to be reminded of what to do when the fire alarms go off or when instructions are given to “Stay Put” or to “Shelter in Place”.  During tomorrow’s assembly, we will also discuss the process we will be using to practice how to respond to an intruder event.   Our discussion will focus on two specific responses: how to evacuate if there is an intruder in the building, and what to do if you have to remain in the building with an intruder.  The information we will be sharing is the same information your students have received while they were in elementary schools and will likely receive when they move onto WHS.  I am including the slides we will be using during the assembly here for your reference.

Please note that we will be conducting a training exercise to practice the school’s responses to an intruder event on the morning of April 3.  I will be providing you with more information about that exercise in the coming weeks.  Please remember that Monday’s assembly is NOT the training exercise itself.  Students will only be reminded of what to do if emergency events occur.

Please also note that the building IMT and the town safety officials have been planning this assembly and April’s training exercise since late fall.  Therefore, the timing of Monday’s assembly is not directly related to the New Zealand shooting.  We are not planning to mention the tragedy during the assembly, but I also understand some students may be particularly sensitive to the information we will be sharing due to the mosque shootings.  Please know that our mental health staff will be available to support your students if they need help.

The second task we plan to accomplish on Monday is to have your students take a school climate survey.  The school, with the help of the School Council, has been implementing a school climate survey for the last few years.  The survey is designed to gather information about instances of bullying, harassment, and social meanness, and the prevalence of stress they encounter in their daily lives.  This year, with the help of the School Council, I have adjusted the survey to include questions that assess students’ perception of their relationships with adults in the building and their sense of belonging at McCall.  I am also fortunate to have the help of Ms. Carly Robinson, a doctoral student at Harvard Graduate School of Education and WHS graduate, to help us craft the survey questions and analyze the results.  Ms. Robinson’s research focus is on student-teacher relationship so having her expertise for this endeavor is particularly helpful.  I strongly believe one of the most essential contributors to a successful school is having strong relationships between school staff and the students.  Therefore, I am genuinely interested in how our students view their relationships with teachers and staff.  I hope you will take the time to let your students how helpful it would be for them to take the survey seriously.  

Please know that this is an anonymous survey and thus your students’ names and identities will not be collected.

Thank you and enjoy the upcoming week!

James Lin
McCall Middle School

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