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Letter from the Superintendent on district communications

April 22, 2016

Dear parents, guardians and community members,

The events that took place at the beginning of this month surrounding the social media postings of one of our students resulted in some difficult days for all of us in the Schalmont community. I understand the fear a situation such as this can cause, and looking back at the communication sent over weekend when this occurred, I can understand how the message didn’t clarify the situation well.

Throughout that weekend, school administrators and I had been cooperating with the police, and measures had been taken to ensure our campus was secure and students would be safe to return to school Monday morning, however, the content of the communication sent out Sunday, April 3 did not convey this. I generally consult with our communications office when preparing information to share with parents and the community pertaining to something of this nature. In an effort to walk the thin line between what we could say in regards to an ongoing police investigation and under student privacy laws, we erred on not giving our Schalmont community the information they needed to be reassured that their children would remain secure in our schools. The communication that was sent out came too late in the day, was not clear that the situation was under control, nor that it was safe for students to return to school on Monday. Please know it was never my intention to cause more stress than necessary for our school community. For that, I am truly sorry.

As an update, please know that appropriate consequences are being applied in accordance with the district Code of Conduct. Please understand that FERPA laws preclude me from sharing specifics related to a student’s records, including disciplinary records without parental consent.

Reflection and lessons learned

This event set off a series of conversations and concerns surrounding district communications and safety measures. I want to assure you that I am listening to your comments.

I have received correspondence through a number of emails, texts, personal conversations, and phone calls relating to the communications sent out regarding the situation. I read each written correspondence and listened to what was being said, and responded individually to each one. I appreciate all of the feedback on this issue.

I have made my home in, and am a part of this community and value all students, staff and parents in our district. I have grown to truly love our students and want only the best for them and, of course, making sure they are safe and secure is of utmost importance.

As Tyron Edwards has said, “right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past.” So in that spirit, I, along with the other school administrators and our district safety committee members, have been reflecting on how the incident played out and what we can do to keep our parents, students, staff, and residents better informed in the future. Rest assured we have learned important lessons from this event that will help us improve future decisions and communications.

Moving forward, we are fine tuning our action plan for crisis communications. We will be reviewing details of this plan with others in the district so people are aware of what steps need to be taken when, should a crisis happen again. We want to insure that if a situation arises again, we will to be the first and best source of information, as we always should be.

Increasing my direct communication

It is my intention to increase my direct communication with the community at large.

I’m making a commitment to start sending out regular communication directly from me to you. These will be delivered by email through School News Notifier (SNN) and also posted on the district website and Facebook page. My goal is to not only increase communication, but also transparency between the district office and the Schalmont community.

If you do not have an SNN account, you can sign up for one for free. If you have an account but have not selected “district news,” as an option, please consider adding it. This is the filter we use when we send out district-wide information, which will include my emails.

I’m also on Twitter, which is a great avenue for two-way communications, should you wish to follow and engage with me.

I am also always available to talk to community members after board meetings. And, of course I, and every other Schalmont staff member, can be reached at any time through email or by phone. Contact information for all district employees is located on our website.

I encourage you to reach out to me, the teachers, or the administrators anytime you have any questions, comments, or concerns. We will listen.

How the district communicates

I also want to mention that as a district, we use many different tools to reach out to our community. As mentioned above, we offer an opt-in email service called School News Notifier. I encourage residents, and especially parents, to sign up for a free account. Through this system, you can also choose to receive text alerts for school closings and delays.

We can be found online on our district website, as well as our district Facebook page and Twitter account.

We have a system that allows us to make automated calls to all district parents. Because of this, it is important that you keep your current home, mobile, and/or work number updated with your child’s school office. The phone number from which these calls originate is (518) 355-6255, which, depending on your carrier, may or may not show up as a Schalmont number.

As always, I welcome feedback, comments, and questions at any time. I wish you all a very happy and healthy spring break.

Sincerely,
Dr. Carol Pallas
Superintendent of Schools