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Message from the Superintendent

Rick Letterhead.png

 

May 2018

 

As we near the close of another school year, I want to celebrate our students, staff and parents for their hard work and commitment to the teaching and learning, both personal and academic, that has taken place throughout the year. We have great students who are supported by dedicated staff members and committed parents. I am grateful to be part of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District community.

 

Nationwide, and in our own community, this year has unfortunately been shadowed by tragic events and concerns about safety. As I walk through schools, talk to teachers, meet with parents and students, the topic of school safety and student mental wellness surfaces in almost every conversation. This is understandable, given events across the U.S. and even in our own region. I can assure you that the Board of Education and I are committed  each day to ensuring that safety receives the critical attention it deserves in our District.

 

One of our 2017-2018 SRVUSD Leadership Priorities is to “deliberately prioritize and provide a world-class education, where our focus on Inclusion, Cultural Responsiveness and Response to Intervention ensures that each student, employee and family feels safe and respected.” This will again be front and center in 2018-2019.

 

We want you to know that we are taking concrete steps to keep our students and staff safe. There are several areas of focus for our work in this area: 1) Safety Assessment, Planning, Training, Communication and Implementation; 2) Personnel; 3) Perimeter; and 4) Technology. We have specifically designated over a million dollars of our state funding towards safety and mental wellness projects next school year. A summary of the initial steps we are taking follows, but please understand, this is just a starting point. There is much more work to be done.

 

New Full-Time Safety Coordinator

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District has created a full-time Safety & Wellness Coordinator position. We are fortunate to have current Charlotte Wood Middle School Assistant Principal James Corral joining the District team in this role. If you are not familiar with Mr. Corral, I can share with you that he is well known among our administration team and at Charlotte Wood Middle School for his commitment to emergency planning, safety protocol, drills and assessment, and traffic safety, all of which is strongly supported by his military background.

 

Gathering Input and Feedback

Although the position doesn’t go into effect until July, Mr. Corral has already completed an initial assessment, met with administrators at each of our 36 school sites to review and discuss current safety plans and procedures to gather input about what works at each school site and where we can improve. He is also meeting with our safety community partners and our District administrative team, as well as consulting with nationwide experts. We will use this work to develop a comprehensive safety improvement implementation protocol that will begin next school year. We are also looking at the data we’ve gathered through a number of surveys, including School Climate and Healthy Kids. Our Board of Education will hold a Board Workshop this summer, where we will present our findings and recommendations for improvements.

 

Mental Wellness

Mental wellness is a large component of keeping our students safe. We have seen over and over again that students who make poor decisions often need additional mental health support. Part of this work includes training staff and parents to recognize early warning signs. We are creating a Mental Wellness Task Force to identify areas where we can improve, and we are adding two full-time social workers to our staff for the 2018-2019 school year. I will update you on this work as it unfolds next school year.

 

Threats

Another area that we are exploring is how we can provide additional support to a student who has made a threat. Know that each time we receive a threat, we immediately contact law enforcement authorities, and they determine whether the individual has the intention and/or means to carry out the threat. The school also conducts its own investigation that can lead to disciplinary action. We are looking at implementing Safety Assessment and Intervention teams that would include mental health professionals, educators and law enforcement to take proactive, problem-solving steps to provide interventions for these students.

 

Perimeter: Fences, Gates and Surveillance

We are continuing  implementation of our current plan to fence the interiors of our schools and the exteriors where it makes sense from a safety standpoint. We are also revisiting the timeline for this plan to add additional security at our school sites.

 

Technology: Tip-line and Reporting

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of reporting information that is suspicious. I want to thank the community for their support in this message because it is working. Students are increasingly coming forward to report information. You’ve heard us say it before and I will say it again: If you see something, or know something, say something. According to the non-profit Sandy Hook Promise, in four of five school shootings, at least one individual had some type of knowledge about the plan but failed to report it. Our reports of suspicious information have increased substantially in the past six months, so we believe our community is listening. We are in the process of looking at other tools to make reporting tips even easier, especially for young people. While we do have an anonymous bullying tip line, we think we can do better by creating a text message/app hotline for anonymous reporting of information. More details will come this summer.

 

Training

Another area that continues to rise to the top in our conversations about safety is the need for additional training. We have long had practice drills in place for emergencies, evacuations, earthquakes and intruders, but we want to do more, and offer more extensive training and practice for students and staff. We will begin this work with our site leaders when they return in July and will continue it with all personnel. We will also address how we can better prepare our students.

 

Equity and Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning

Our work to ensure that every student feels safe and respected at our school sites has a significant impact on the culture of a school. It is important that all students and staff feel that they are part of a community. We are committed to continuing our work in culturally responsive teaching and learning and in equity to ensure that all students and staff feel safe, welcome and supported at school.  Words matter.

 

Thank you for entrusting your students to us. Please know that conversations and actions take place every day in our District to improve how we approach safety and communications with our parents. We will continue to work with you and keep you informed of our progress.  Again, thank you for a great year!

 

Take care and I hope you have a wonderful summer with family and friends.

 

Rick Schmitt

Non-Discrimination Statement

San Ramon Valley Unified School District programs, activities, and practices shall be free from unlawful discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying based on actual or perceived race, color, ancestry, national origin, ethnic group identification, age, religion, marital or parental status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression; or on the basis of a person’s association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.

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