Blog Entry by Rick Dustin-Eichler

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Photo of Rick Dustin-Eichler Rick Dustin-Eichler is the Dothan Brook School Principal. Before coming to Hartford, Rick was principal at the Bridgewater Village School, and served as a technology integrationist and elementary classroom teacher. He has a B.A. in political studies and elementary education from Boston College and a M.A. in liberal studies from Dartmouth College.

Building strong relationships with students, parents, and the community is the most important thing that schools can do to ensure school safety. At the Dothan Brook School, our work with the Positive Behavior, Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program provides the school's staff with a daily framework through which to do this important work. This includes establishing clear and consistent positive school expectations, intentionally reinforcing expected behavior at a rate that far exceeds the number of times that unexpected behaviors are addressed, and providing regular feedback to parents around their child's positive and unexpected behaviors. Lastly, and most importantly, through the PBIS program the school has learned to see each child as an individual who has distinct needs. This belief allows us to differentiate each struggling student's program to meet his or her social, emotional, and academic needs. Because of the philosophy shift that accompanied the implementation of the PBIS program, we are able to foster a school climate that is safe and nurturing and in which most students are ready to learn.

The most important piece in ensuring school safety is the creation of a school climate that is inclusive and supportive of all students, families, and staff members. This is not a job that school leadership can tackle by itself. Staff members need to provide a positive and caring environment, differentiate instruction to allow all students access to the curriculum, frontline mental health supports for children and families, and a connection to community-based supports. It takes a team of dedicated professionals who are working in concert to accomplish this end.

Schools will never be able to prepare for every scenario that might arise. However, thinking through and developing a crisis plan for a multitude of different events provides school leaders with a large toolbox to pull from when that unexpected situation is presented. Fire drills, evacuation drills, and lockdown drills are important for two primary reasons. First, through repeated practice the routines of these drills become automatic. This is crucial because in the event of an actual emergency, when emotions are running high, staff and students must be able to act quickly without hesitation. Second, every drill must serve as a learning opportunity for the school and emergency responders. As drills are practiced at different times of day, in the different seasons, and with key personal absent, gaps in emergency plans become apparent. Discovering these gaps during drills allows schools and first responders to make needed changes to the protocols when the stakes are not high.

Page Last Updated on July 8, 2014