Dear RCS Families,
The February break has provided our students, staff, and families with some time, space and distance to reflect on the tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. This time cannot undo the deep sorrow and, in many cases, concern for our own safety. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and community of Parkland. We must continue to look ahead and consider how we ensure the safety and emotional health of our Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk children.
The responsibility to keep our children safe lies with all of us. Our leadership teams continuously examine the best ways to accomplish this task. RCS has building-level Crisis Response Teams (CRT) that reflect and strategize regularly on building safety and security concerns. There is also a district-level Health and Safety committee that examines the same difficult tasks and ensures consistency throughout the district. In collaboration with local and state law enforcement, these teams have developed comprehensive Emergency Response Plans (ERP) for our staff and students. And, while strong protocols have been in place for numerous years, they evolve as new research and recommendations are presented. Law enforcement and emergency response agencies have copies our RCS Emergency Response Plans.
Strong relationships between RCS and local and state law enforcement and emergency responders are crucial to a whole-community approach to the safety of our students. Through ongoing communication and collaboration, our district regularly interfaces with multiple law enforcement agencies including the New York State Police, the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, the Bethlehem and Coeymans Police Department. Both Sheriff Apple of Albany County and Chief McKenna of Coeymans are very active and involved in keeping our schools safe. We have a Coeymans Police Department school resource officer presence at our schools on a daily basis and have support from the Bethlehem Police who assist with monitoring A.W. Becker Elementary.
Another important aspect of our increased safety awareness is the relationships our school leaders and staff continue to build with our students. We work hard to get to know each of our kids and to look for specific solutions and structures to help them overcome their obstacles. As an example, we have organized a forum for our high school students in which they can express their concerns and gain a better understanding of our safety protocols.
Our school social workers, counselors, psychologists, and administrators are always available to meet with students should they ever need someone to talk to, need to express concerns, or are just having a bad day and need a place to decompress. We have a variety of classes and programs for students with more significant social-emotional needs. We have many teams, clubs, events, and activities designed to help students become more involved in their school and community.
Regardless of our best efforts, there are times when individuals say or do things online or in the community that raise concerns for their safety and/or the safety of others. This is where the “see something, say something” advice holds true and becomes a crucial component to early intervention. If you or your child ever have concerns about a potential threat, please immediately report those concerns to school leaders or local police.
We want students to be aware of these safety measures and act accordingly. In order for us to increase the effectiveness of our safety plan, we are asking that you have conversations at home with your children. Here are some topics to discuss:
- The importance of safety drills and why it is critical that they take them seriously.
- The need to speak to school staff if they notice anything they feel is alarming, that may lead to a safety concern.
- Find ways to express their own concerns and feelings regarding safety at school.
- Ways to make a difference. What are some ways they can take action for social change?
Students may have many questions, as we would expect following such a highly publicized event. Please reinforce to them that we all work together to keep them safe. Should you feel that your child needs additional support in the coming days, I encourage you to reach out to your child’s school principal and learn more about getting in touch with our school counseling teams.
Thank you, as always, for your support and involvement in our schools.
Dr. Brian Bailey
Superintendent, RCS Schools