Letter to EPS families from Superintendent Badams
Posted by Communications & Media Relations (MC) at 8/17/2015 8:05:00 AM
ERIE, Pa. (August 17, 2015) — Dr. Jay Badams, superintendent of Erie's Public Schools, sent the following letter this week to all staff and families addressing the loss of three students this summer and the district's approach to ensuring a smooth start to the 2015-2016 school year:
August 17, 2015
Dear EPS Staff and Families:
We will soon end what can be described only as a heartbreaking summer for the City of Erie and Erie's Public Schools. I know that all of you are well aware of the tragic events that took place on the streets of Erie over the past few months — senseless violence that has claimed the lives of three EPS students. These children were torn from their families, friends, and this community in such a vicious manner, it's simply incomprehensible.
The loss of these students profoundly impacts the entire Erie community and we send our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Elijah, Jacob, and Shakur.
These incidents serve as shocking reminders that no community or neighborhood is immune to these tragedies. Our schools are located in the neighborhoods that they serve and are subject to many of the same pressures and challenges. Despite our heightened awareness and shaken sense of safety, it is important to remember that our schools are still, by far, the safest place for Erie children to be during the day.
As we return later this month, we are focused on welcoming all 12,000 students back to Erie's Public Schools, helping them deal with a wide range of emotions and issues, and assisting our entire school community in its pursuit of a return to normalcy — teaching and learning in our classrooms.
In Erie's Public Schools, safety is our number one priority. In fact, as an urban school system, our level of security and crisis preparedness far exceeds that of any other school district in the region.
Erie is one of only a few school systems in Pennsylvania with a dedicated school police force — armed police officers patrolling and stationed in our schools, highly trained to deal with student and school safety issues.
Erie is also lucky to have the Blue Coats working in our schools and neighborhoods. This program was recently featured as national model for school safety by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Blue Coats support non-violent conflict resolution strategies among students and staff, build and strengthen relationships between students and staff, provide training to educators on cultural competencies, and themselves serve as familiar, positive adult role models for inner-city youth in order to reinforce positive behavior.
School safety involves a mix of both humanware and hardware. Our schools also have recommended security measures in place such as controlled access during school hours, hand-held metal detectors, sign-in and identification procedures, camera monitoring systems, and the One-Call rapid notification system.
As a district, we review our safety measures, programs, and procedures throughout the year and consult with national school safety experts, local and state law enforcement, FBI and emergency management officials to ensure we're doing everything we can to keep students safe. I am confident that we are, but we must never allow ourselves to relax our standards or become complacent.
Beyond these security and emergency response measures, tragedies such as this also reinforce the importance of mental health services and conflict resolution. Our schools' mental and behavioral health professionals are always available to work with our students and staff — now or at any time throughout the year.
We all share the responsibility of ensuring the safety of students and staff in our schools and supporting our students and each other during this difficult time. Together, we are united in our sympathy, resolve, and commitment — sympathy for the family and friends impacted by this violence; resolve to make our city and our schools better; determination to keep our staff and students safe so they can focus on teaching and learning.
If you have any questions or would like more information or resources, please do not hesitate to call your child's school principal and/or counselor.
Thank you for your continued support of Erie's Public Schools.
Dr. Jay D. Badams
Superintendent of Schools