The following are the remarks of Sewanhaka High School Superintendent Dr. Ralph Ferrie made during the public meeting of the Sewanhaka Board of Education on Dec. 17, 2012:
Before we begin tonight’s meeting, I’d like all of us to take a few moments to reflect upon the events that have occurred over the past few days. Let us honor the 26 individuals; six adults and 20 precious young children who lost their lives in the tragic incident that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
Please join me as we pause for a moment of silence in remembrance of those individuals who were taken from their families during this senseless act of violence.
This event has had a major impact on us all and it’s important that we learn from this and past tragedies and extend our efforts in order to prevent future events like the one that took place on Friday.
Having served as superintendent through such tragedies as Columbine, Virginia Tech and now Newtown, I’ve come to know and understand the challenges that we have in our schools, especially in our ever-changing society. Most importantly, we must all – teachers, administrators, school staff, parents, guardians and community members – work together to help support our children who are in crisis. We must continue to strive toward providing much-needed support, counseling, guidance and nurturing to students who, as demonstrated by their behaviors and outcry, are in need. Through open communication and a tight network of support between the home and the school, we must work toward continued due diligence in order to provide appropriate intervention on an ongoing basis.
In my favorite book about teachers, written by Jonathan Kozol, the title is “On Being a Teacher.” They go on to say that there are two kinds of educators and I want to just read this as a tribute to those in Newtown:
“There are those who are committed to the calling of being a teacher and those who are not. The first one has made the profession an integrated part of their lifestyle whereas the second merely treats teaching as merely a job.”
We know what kind of people and what kind of teachers and administrators were in that school. Passionately committed teachers are those who absolutely love what they do. They are constantly searching for more effective ways to reach their children, to master the content and methods of their craft. They feel a personal mission, even a magical quest, to walk through life devouring new experiences, learning as much as they can about the world about others and themselves and helping others do the same.
These are the teachers and administrators and staff who put their students before themselves and will do anything to protect their students and ensure their safety at all times. The teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School are our heroes. They reacted in a way that they were trained and extended every effort possible to keep their students safe. Please remember, as we are all functioning in this new educational environment that emphasizes accountability and results, let us never forget the virtues and actions that were demonstrated by the staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School as being the most important of our teachers, principals and support staff, not measured by student achievement, test score results, but instead by their actions and how they cared to protect their students during this tragic event.