The SCN Encourager – Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown . . .  Anytown . . .  Mytown

The goal of the SCN Encourager is simple; to daily encourage the work of school communicators, whether they are superintendents, principals, secretaries, or other educational leaders.

So today I am struggling with what to write as the tragedy in Newtown, CT, continues to tear at our hearts. All I know is that many of you were among those who immediately stepped up as the tragedy unfolded to offer much needed support within your own communities and circles of influence. Without hesitation and without prep time – you answered the call.

No school communicator who spoke glossed over the pain of the victims, their loved ones, and the extended Newtown school family. Everyone echoed in their own way what President Obama acknowledged, that everyone can only approach this horrific event from their own perspective as a parent or family member. Within every school communicator I heard or saw over the last couple of days, it was obvious that they all now had a hollow spot somewhere deep inside them, somewhat similar to the massive sense of loss now affecting the grieving people in Newtown.

In the early hours of the tragedy, the facts were few. But that didn’t stop school communicators from acting. With very personal “too-close-to-home” understandings of what was happening both within and around Sandy Hook Elementary, school communicators got going.

I heard school communicators on radio stations reminding listeners that school are still the safest places for children to be. I heard others discuss their district’s safety plans and how often they drill and review their practices. More than one superintendent (like Mike Shibler in Rockford, MI) confronted the prevailing political wind and publicly questioned the Michigan Legislature’s support of concealed weapons on school grounds. Superintendents and school communicators sent immediate email safety reminders and updates to their staffs. NSPRA joined the NEA and others in sending out school crisis related resources. People had questions. People needed support. And despite grappling with the unimaginable, school communicators did their jobs.

In fact, I think school communicators did more than just their jobs. (They do their jobs everyday.) But since Friday afternoon, the inner commitment and passion for their duties has been racheted-up big time. School communicators were touched by the news article about Sandy Hook’s new safety measures, especially the word-for-word reprint of the letter the principal had recently sent home. School communicators were touched by the story of the 27 year-old teacher who died while shielding her students from bullets. The bond between school communicators may cross the borders of many states, but every school communicator I know is beginning this week with a renewed seriousness of purpose – as kind of an unsaid tribute to the children and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary.

At a large concert I attended on Saturday night, one of the performers (on stage for a moment with one of her grandchildren in her arms) said, “Who doubts what is truly important now? Let’s say we are at the edge of the fiscal cliff. And let’s say that we all slip off it and fall. But let’s say after our fiscal cliff tumble we are still able to go home and hug our children or grandchildren later that night . . . is there anyone here that would not call this a good day?”  The overwhelming silence provided the answer.

I’m not linking up to a cartoon today. (Even our talented Chicago cartoonist Mark Anderson admits he is swinging back and forth between utter sadness and anger now. His wife is a teacher and they have several young kids in school.) As a school communicator myself, I’m just sharing some thoughts today.

You’ve been patient as I struggled to comprehend and express my feelings about the enormity of the pain in Newtown. (Thank you.) But this much I know. I’m proud of the work that school communicators do in times such as these, especially in the public arena and with the media. We try not to veer left or veer right, but simply try to keep the course straight. No suffering is reduced or taken away, unfortunately. We’re not the healers. But there’s good in what we do.

Tom Page, SCN managing editor

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