WORDS FROM THE SUP’T: Schools strive to be safe, healthy

Our district is already in our third week of school and I am happy to report that things are rolling along nicely this year! (I can say that both figuratively AND literally, now that the construction at Waldon and Sashabaw Road has cleared and our buses are back to their usual routes!)
When we began this school year, I implored our students and parents to greet the year ahead as I am: with optimism, with purpose, and with an open mind. Can you imagine the impact we’d feel in our community if everyone approached each new day – every class, every practice, every meeting, every interaction – as an opportunity to connect and learn with one another?
Clarkston Community Schools has long been known as a community that supports personalized learning and the “whole person.” Our direction is clear: strong learning connections begin with a personal connection. Every decision we make as a district is guided by every person’s right to feel safe, supported, healthy, engaged, and challenged.
This is and will always be the cornerstone of Clarkston Schools, and what sets us apart. This is our “why.” In the coming months, I would like to use my recurring “Words from the Superintendent” column in The Clarkston News to expand on each of those focal points, and dig deeper into the “how” behind our “why.”
With all of the incredible construction work that was completed this summer, I am centering today’s piece on the important strides we are making to ensure our Clarkston family is SAFE on our school campuses.
Thanks to your support of our 2016 bond, we were able to build safe and secure entrances at Clarkston Elementary, Clarkston Junior High School, Independence Elementary, Pine Knob Elementary, North Sashabaw Elementary, and Springfield Plains Elementary this summer. (Similar work was completed last summer at Andersonville Elementary School, Bailey Lake Elementary School.) These newly renovated entrances provide an added layer of security by requiring visitors to be “buzzed” in to the main office for sign-in before passing through to school hallways and classrooms. Buildings and parking lots have also been equipped with additional security cameras.
We’re also resuming the school safety training we began as a staff last spring through the ALICE Training Institute. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, and is the number one active shooter civilian response training for all types of organizations.
Eleven of our Administrators have attended a two-day “train the trainer” ALICE training workshop and are currently planning simulation trainings for all of our staff in their work environments. Through a partnership with St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, our staff is also receiving hands-on first aid training at each school as well. Ten thirty-minute Stop the Bleed® training sessions will be presented to all of our 1,000 staff members throughout the district this fall, beginning Sept. 17.
We recognize the importance of “mental first-aid” too, and as such, invested in a special all-day Youth Mental Health First Aid training workshop for all Sashabaw Middle School, Clarkston Junior High School, Clarkston High School, and Renaissance High School teachers on Aug. 24. Holly Douglas, Program Manager of Community Programs and Special Projects from Oakland Schools, worked to bring in 14 facilitators from Oakland County and around Michigan to train almost 200 district staff. Topics covered include adolescent development and mental health; signs, symptoms, risk factors and protective factors; and how to use a Mental Health First Aid plan. Costs for the workshop were covered by a Project AWARE grant we received from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Agency (SAMHSA) and the State of Michigan. This valuable training greatly enhanced our collective knowledge of the signs and symptoms of trouble, and increased our ability to recognize students who are in distress. Staci Puzio, our director of student growth and well-being, has much more planned in this vitally important area of supporting the “whole person.”
Finally, a critical part of our school safety plan is our ongoing partnership with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. This fall, OCSO deputies will join our school liaison officers in and around each of our school campuses to provide an increased presence during the school day. We are grateful for the support of our local deputies, and for their shared investment in keeping our kids and our community safe.
We seek to actively communicate these types of updates to our community, in addition to “moment-to-moment” safety alerts and news, and we encourage you to sign up for district e-mail notifications through www.clarkstoncalendar.org (select CCS), follow our social media, and visit our website frequently. We also have an emergency phone line that is monitored 24/7 at 248-595-5044 for citizens to report any situation that may threaten the immediate safety of our students, staff, or property.
I look forward to continuing this series of updates with you! In the Oct. 10 issue of The Clarkston News, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on how we, as a school community, work to ensure each student feels SUPPORTED. In the meantime, thank you for all you do to support your Clarkston Community Schools!
Shawn Ryan is superintendent of Clarkston Community Schools

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