Recent Parkland, Florida Tragedy

The recent tragic events in Parkland, Florida have created a sense of anxiety in all of us.  Our condolences and thoughts go out to the Parkland community.  This senseless act of violence makes us pause and examine our own schools.  Many have asked me, “what are we doing to prevent this from happening in Somers?”  My answer is we have a comprehensive and coordinated system of protocols, student supports and security provisions to help us assure the safety of all.  Teachers and Administrators always strive to establish personal relationships with their students.  This is the key to preventing incidents like this.  We (educators, parents and community members) must be proactive in listening, looking, and establishing these relationships with our youth and communicating with each other when there are concerns.  That being said, the school system is also proactive in providing supports and interventions.   Below are security provisions and student support programs that facilitate the emotional well being of our students and maintain a high level of security.

Security Provisions:

In 2013, Somers Public Schools partnered with the Connecticut Department of Corrections Special Operations Group to conduct a vulnerability assessment of all the facilities.  Numerous recommendations were made to enhance our security.  In 2015, the district utilized a $300,000 state grant to implement these recommendations.  Last fall, the school district worked with law enforcement to further identify other security concerns.  In response to this assessment, the Board of Education included these recommendations in their Long Range Facilities Plan and assigned a priority one status to them. 

District lockdown drills are conducted at least three times a year.  We coordinate these drills with State and local first responders. 

We participate in monthly emergency management meetings with other town officials where we discuss response scenarios, readiness provisions, and protocols.  All officials engage in active discussions and planning to assure we have a coordinated and unified response to various situations.

We convened a district task force last fall to look at all of our security provisions.  This task force meets frequently to discuss current best practices, response to crisis scenarios, and re-unification protocols.  Additionally, members of this task force actively participate in the Capital Region Emergency Planning Committee.

Recently we have switched our School Resource Officer model from a State Trooper to a Somers Police Officer.  This new model has enhanced the coordination between local law enforcement and school officials.  Additionally, it has facilitated an increased police presence on a daily basis in our schools.

Student Support Systems

Somers Elementary School
·       Second Step social skills program teaches children how to interact positively with other students and how to respond in social situations.
·       Teachers hold class meetings on a weekly basis. During these meetings, teachers facilitate conversations around social, emotional issues as well as any problems that may arise during a student's day.
·       Students are consistently reminded through daily conversations and curricular activities to be sure to tell adults if they see or hear anything that could be dangerous.
·       The formalize Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program (PBIS) emphasizes Safety, Respect, and Responsibility. Students and staff are encouraged to give "Shout Outs" that are read on the announcements in the morning when they see others being safe, respectful, responsible or going above and beyond to make the school a better place.

Mabelle B. Avery Middle School
·       All students are in advisory groups that meet during extended homeroom periods.  This time is utilized to talk about safeguarding the school, safety procedures in place and give students opportunities to discuss concerns. 
·       Frequent reinforcement of "If You See Something, Say Something."   
·       Student Intervention Teams are comprised of teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, school psychologists, social worker, school resource officer and others to develop support systems for students identified in need.
·       The  Crisis Team meets regularly to review emergency plans and responses. 

Somers High School
·       Students Supporting Students (SSS). Students have been trained to identify what social isolation looks like.
·       Start With Hello is a social worker supported program that focuses on helping students feel less isolated.
·       Helping Hands.  High school students helping freshman coming into a new school situation.
·       Multi-tiered System of Support Program (MTSS).  Social-emotional supports for students who are referred through the intervention process. The social worker and/or school psychologist facilitate these groups.
·       Morning Meeting.  Students have a check in with a teacher in the morning.  These are students identified through the MTSS process.
·       Safe School Climate Committee.  Events focus on inclusion and acceptance at SHS.
·       Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).
·       Numerous clubs that promote social acceptance.
·       Student Intervention Teams are comprised of teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, school psychologists, social worker, school resource officer and others to develop support systems for students identified in need.
·       ASPIRE Program.  An alternative educational setting for students with difficulties in a mainstream environment.
·       Somers Comes Together.  A community and school partnership to develop prevention strategies.
·       Circles.  A powerful student and staff conversation activity that facilitates open dialogue to address concerns of students.
·       Advisory.  Teacher and student activities to help foster the development of teacher/student relationships.  Advisories meet twice a month.

Parent Resources

If your child is having any difficulty in the aftermath of this or any other traumatic event, please feel free to contact the school counseling and support staff.  The links below are also good parent resources.

The safety and security of all our students and staff is the first priority of the school system.  We will continue to implement our current programs while looking to improve.  We hope you will also be proactive through your relationships with students by listening, looking, and communicating.

Thank you