Letter from Superintendent McGrath

A letter from Superintendent McGrath regarding school safety following recent incident in Florida

Dear BH-BL Parents,

Our hearts are heavy today after yesterday’s tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and community of Parkland.

At times like this the enormity of our responsibility to keep our schools and our students safe comes into sharp focus in the public eye… In reality, however, this charge is taken very seriously by our administration and staff every day. Led by our Director of Security, retired NYS Trooper Phil Poitier, and our five building principals, our district’s security measures have evolved over the past five years into a serious multi-pronged safety plan. Each part of our plan is made stronger and more effective with your involvement.

I would like to review some of the important aspects of our approach to school security and remind you of ways that you can partner with us to keep our schools as safe as possible.

  • Our schools have undergone many physical and technological changes that now include secure entry vestibules, increased use of surveillance technology, improved signage, and the hiring of additional school security officers and/or monitors. Guided by the advice of security experts and developing best-practice in the field, we continue to enhance the safety features of our facilities. We appreciate the fact that our parents and residents abide by the safety identification protocols we have in place at our building entrances. While at times these steps may seem like an inconvenience, understanding their importance in modern-day school safety procedures is also appreciated.
  • Staff and students continue to participate in regular drills for lockdowns, lockouts, and evacuations throughout the school year. These drills are often run in cooperation with local law enforcement. Our staff also receive frequent training on how to respond in the event of an emergency and the steps they need to take to keep students safe. We ask that you talk to your children about the importance of these drills and why it is critical that they take them seriously.
  • We have built strong relationships with local and state law enforcement and emergency responders through regular communication and collaboration. Our district interfaces regularly with multiple law enforcement agencies including the New York State Police, the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department, and the Glenville Police Department. Both Sheriff Zurlo of Saratoga County and Chief Janek of Glenville are very active and involved in keeping our schools safe. We have daily visits from both departments. The officers get to know students as they walk the halls and visit cafeterias. They are available 24/7 to Director Poitier, our principals and central office staff when the need to address an emergency situation arises. They teach D.A.R.E. classes in our elementary schools. They provide all students and staff across the district with instruction on proper emergency response procedures. They serve on our Health and Safety committee and our Building Safety teams to help us develop and maintain our official District Safety Plan. The public version of our safety plan can be found on our website. We encourage you to support our local law enforcement partners and applaud the proactive role they are playing in our schools.
  • Our school leaders and staff continue to build relationships and become trusted confidants with our student body. The most important thing we can do to have safe and peaceful schools is to build strong connections with our students. We work hard to get to know each of our kids and to look for specific solutions and structures to help them with their problems. Our school social workers, counselors, psychologists, and administrators are always available to meet with students should they ever need someone to talk to, need to express concerns, or are just having a bad day and need a place to decompress. We have a variety of classes and programs for students with more significant social-emotional needs. We have many teams, clubs, events, and activities designed to help students become more involved in their school and community. Regardless of our best efforts, there are times when individuals say or do things online or in the community that that raise concerns for their safety and/or the safety of others. This is where the “see something, say something” advice holds true and becomes crucial. If you or your child ever has concerns about an individual’s potential threat to others or to themselves, please immediately report those concerns to school administrators.

Principals reported that things went well in school today. Students had many questions, as we would expect following such a highly publicized event. Please reinforce to them that we all work together to keep them safe. Should you feel that your child needs additional support in the coming days, I encourage you to reach out to your child’s school principal and learn more about getting in touch with our school counseling teams. If you have any questions about our district Safety Plan, please feel free to reach out to me, to Director Poitier, or any of our principals.

Thank you, as always, for your support and involvement in our schools.