Message from the Superintendent

posted Feb 16, 2018, 1:34 PM by Deanne Galdston

Good afternoon,

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today, given the events that occurred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this past Wednesday.  This tragedy has shaken school communities across the country, including here in Watertown.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims of this, and all senseless acts of violence, as this is just the most recent of several that have occurred this year.  

I am profoundly impressed by the level of caring and support that our staff members consistently demonstrate throughout times of crisis, and how they proactively support children through the challenges they face.  We need to continue to keep the lines of communication open between students and adults in the building for the safety and comfort of all.

Events like this serve as a reminder that school safety is our first priority and responsibility.  The Watertown Public Schools, in conjunction with the Watertown Police Department and the Watertown Fire Department, has a Critical Incident Team that represents all schools and all sectors, with the purpose of ensuring that appropriate safety measures are in place.  As a school community, we have several fully developed safety procedures and protocols, including enhanced lockdown procedures, that are practiced and reviewed each year to ensure a coordinated and appropriate response in case of any type of emergency in our schools.  

Derived from the American School Counselor Association and other support organizations, the following are suggestions for parents, caregivers, and teachers to help make your children feel safe:

  • Try to keep routines as normal as possible. Children gain security from the predictability of routine, including attending school.
  • Limit exposure to television and the news.
  • Be honest with children and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.  Answer questions factually. “Yes, there was a very sad incident in Florida yesterday, but your teacher and principal are working very hard to keep you safe.”
  • Listen to children’s fears and concerns.
  • Reassure children that the world is a good place to be.
  • Remain calm and reassuring. Children take their cues from their parents, teachers and adults.
  • Be a good listener and observer. Pay attention to changes in behavior. If you have concerns, please reach out to your school principal or counselor.  

Additionally, I am attaching a resource from the National Association of School Psychologists outlining how to talk to children about violence.

There are Superintendent’s Coffees on February 28, at 9:00 am and 7:00 pm in the Phillips Administration Building.  This is an excellent opportunity for WPS community members to learn more about our school system, our school safety procedures, and other school-related issues that are important to you.  

Best wishes for you and your family over the February break,

Dede Galdston, Ed.D.  

Superintendent of Schools