Dear Putnam Valley Community and Staff:
In response to the murder of 17 students in Florida on February 14, young people throughout the country have determined to have a voice in the quest for safer schools. We do know that schools are statistically the safest place for our children, yet the history of gun violence has shaken our confidence. Our high school principal sent a letter to parents which I have attached to this letter, explaining that there will be no organized event tomorrow at the high school. The same is true at the middle school. Our principals have close relationships with our students and prior to the storms and tragedy in the community a “Day of Unity” was planned with students leading the way on this theme. However, after the emotional strain and terribly sad period we have experienced, the students’ enthusiasm for this action has waned. Simply being with their friends and teachers is a comfort for our students.
I did want to be sure to let the community know that students who are inclined to make a statement by leaving the building for 17 minutes tomorrow to remember those who perished and ask for action and funding for safer schools will not be penalized for doing so. If you know that your child is intending to go out, it would be helpful to let the principals know, particularly at the middle school. Our School Resource Officer has made arrangements for safety on the campus, and we will close our driveway to the school for the 17 minute period. We are completely in support of the sentiments of students who want to take part in a dialogue on this issue and who are eager to be active citizens. We will not impede students from peacefully expressing their views. That goal is incorporated in the civics education that is part of the curriculum we teach. I also want to note that in our oft postponed Board Meeting that was streamed last evening and will be posted on our website, our Board of Education passed a resolution crafted by the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents that advocates for funding to better meet the needs of students needing mental health services and legislation that provides for more reasonable gun safety provisions, and security measures. (link to resolution)
It is noteworthy that our principals observe that our students seek common ground and unity, and reject divisive approaches to resolving differences. Our teachers provide opportunities to hear all perspectives and make decisions based on understanding of our biases and finding positive ways to appreciate different points of view. For our administrators, however, the most serious concern is the area of our students’ social-emotional health. We have a strong and committed clinical staff across the district. Their dedication was reflected during the crisis and grief counseling that took place last week. We also work in partnership with Putnam County’s CoveCare in many ways with regular interaction through our Communities That Care Coalition (CTC) and the services of our Student Support Specialist at the high school. The partnership with the Putnam County Sheriff’s department provides our sensitive and skilled School Resource Officer, Ryan McMahon at the high school and middle school and our vigilant School Patrol Officer, George Turner at the elementary school. In addition, the District is seeking to provide after school services for families in our schools with the help of Putnam County. Certainly our relationship with the Putnam Valley Parks and Recreation program is a key to creating healthy and positive experiences for students outside of school, and the clubs we offer present opportunities for building connections with their peers and teachers.
Much more is needed, however, to acknowledge the suffering in some homes and families that affects student learning and behavior. Essentially, it is trauma that is behind the violent acts of those who do harm. Our schools need all of the tools possible to identify, support, and find resources to heal and help youth who are alienated and isolated. We have many interventions and initiatives that bolster our efforts; however, we also need the support of legislative will to safeguard our treasured children. As a community we find common ground in the pledge to do all in our power to keep our students safe.
Superintendent of Schools
Putnam Valley High School
March 9, 2018
Dear Parents and Guardians,
After a long stretch of snow days, everyone was in good spirits to return to school today!
Next week we have several events scheduled to make up from cancellations.
Tuesday, March 13th – Freshman Orientation Night 7pm – Performing Arts Center (PAC)
Wednesday, March 14th – Mu Alpha Theta Induction 7pm – PAC
Thursday, March 15th – College Admissions Night 7pm – Cafeteria
Due to the long stretch of snow days, our Unity Breakfast that we were planning for March 14 is being postponed to an April date. We feel it’s important to support our students who want to recognize the National School Walkout; however, we also feel that it’s vital for students to have a routine and return to some normalcy after a tumultuous week.
When the weather is warmer, we are planning for a meaningful celebration that highlights the importance of a connected community to create a safe environment for all students. At that time, the entire school will join together on the turf for student speeches; songs from our own acapella group, TempoMental, as well as a light breakfast for everyone to share in. Students who choose to walk out on March 14 for the National Walk Out will not be penalized. However, to assure every child’s safety, we recommend that they make us aware when they leave the building.
I hope that everyone who has been without power is restored very soon. Putnam Valley is a resilient community and our thoughts are with those who have been struggling through these storms.