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crisis response

Prior to Dec. 14, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) had its 2013 agenda set. However, like many others in the K12 education community, on that dreadful day of the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn, CAPSS’ priorities changed. We spoke with Executive Director Joe Cirasuolo about how the association has redirected its efforts this year to focus on helping administrators improve their crisis management systems and strategies to help prevent an attack such as the one in Newtown from happening again.

Superstorm Sandy swept the East Coast in late October, leaving not only residents and businesses without power and struggling to stay afloat, but thousands of schools in the region without power as well. It reminded administrators of the need for comprehensive emergency plans to ensure student, staff, and data security.

Martha Liddell, superintendent of Columbus (Miss.) Municipal School District
A fire caused by spontaneous combustion destroyed South Bay Elementary School in West Babylon (N.Y.) on Feb. 18, 2010.

On Feb. 18, 2010, a spontaneous combustion occurred at South Bay Elementary School in the West Babylon (N.Y.) Union Free School District while the gym floor was being refinished on the final day of the school’s winter vacation. Although no one was injured, the entire school was set aflame and left nothing for the 300 students expected to return the following day. Though considered to be the worst school fire in the greater New York region, South Bay was rebuilt in less than two years, opening this past fall, and students only missed one day of school due to the fire.

Ten years may have passed, but the memory of Sep. 11 remains vivid in the minds of those who lived through it. Although students may have been very young or not yet born, when the World Trade Center was attacked, educators have found ways to memorialize at their schools and in their curriculum. Building fragments, particularly, have made their way around New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. A steel beam from the North Tower was delivered to Barnegat Township (N.J.) School District and will be displayed at the district's high school.

Rosa Parks Elementary

The "Big One" is coming, said Chris Goldfinger, professor in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, at the American Institute of Architects' Portland conference in late June. Goldfinger, a renowned expert on earthquakes, believes that within the next 50 years, Washington and northern Oregon face a 10 to 15 percent chance of an offshore quake that could cause a powerful tsunami, and southern Oregon has more than a 37 percent chance of experiencing a magnitude 8 or higher earthquake.

Frank Costanzo

Frank Costanzo has proven his effectiveness and dedication given his latest test on April 27. Costanzo, superintendent of the Tuscaloosa County (Ala.) School System for seven years, had seen many storms and tornadoes hit his district, but this was by far the worst. On the evening of April 27, just minutes after an F4 tornado ripped through the Holt area of Tuscaloosa County, Costanzo partnered with emergency personnel and opened a shelter at Holt Elementary School, whose roof was damaged but not its gymnasium, and set up a communications center.

"The first and most important step toward reducing risks is to acknowledge that the potential for an incident exists in any school district in the nation."

Kenneth Trump, "Proactive School Security and Emergency Preparedness Planning"


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The suicide of the 10th-grader sent shock waves through the middle school, but after a few months, almost all students and staff had moved on. The principal had heard through the grapevine that the parents blamed the school, but he had no idea that the school was going to be sued. The lawsuit specifically named the principal, coach and a teacher the parents believed had failed to stop the bullying of their child at school. The parents claimed that they had told school officials of their concerns about their child being victimized and that nothing had been done.

Emily is an intelligent, well-rounded high school student. She is in advanced classes and is president of the student government and captain of the cheerleading squad. She has many friends and has a job to help her parents, who are struggling financially. Emily is stressed from balancing schoolwork, extracurricular activities and a time consuming job.