Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Power of Crisis

Warning: In order to truly get the full story in this post, you need to click on the links.  I have been disconnected for the past several weeks.  I have not written a blog post and I have only checked my Twitter account sparingly.  This has not been an effort to relax and disconnect as I mention in one of my posts from July.  It has been a break that was dictated by some circumstances outside my control.  As a principal, I always work on what is called the "interrupt schedule;" which basically means that while I have plans for my week, my day, my hour, the universe has different designs and interrupts those plans for more pressing things.  This summer Bear Tavern Elementary School was presented with quite an interruption.  Unfortunately, on Sunday July 29th we sustained some fairly extensive vandalism.  You can learn more about it from CBS NewsABC News, and The Hopewell Sun.

 As principal of this school for 10 years, it was shocking and saddening to walk through the building on the evening that it happened.  I truly realized how much this school has become my home.  It was like getting punched in the gut.  To see our beautiful school in such a state was painful.  Needless to say, the aforementioned interrupt schedule clearly kicked in.  Everything stopped to address the more immediate needs of the building and the community.  Hence, my absence from this blog.

Fortunately, we found out that our insurance company would cover everything, which helped me to focus on the community.  One thing that I have learned about our wonderful community is that when there is a crisis, we pull together and we emerge successful and better than before.  This is the case in this situation.  After several email communications with the community, I scheduled a community update meeting on August 6th.  This meeting was attended by over 150 staff members and community members.  Here is the presentation that I gave and subsequently posted to our district website: We are Bear Tavern: Better Together! Better Than Ever!

It was truly heartwarming to see the show of support for the school. I received numerous messages that demonstrated the character and strength of our community. Here is just a small sampling of those messages that I posted in our virtual backpack: BT Better Together: The Support of an Amazing Community. 

As mentioned in the presentation above, we were not allowed in the building until August 20th due to the toxicity of the chemicals in the fire extinguishers that were discharged.  The reopening/Community Day that was scheduled was a wonderful success and our students, staff members, families, and community members came together to ready the school for our September opening.  Here are some photos of that day.

As we are now about a week away from the start of school, we are continuing to ready the school for the arrival of the children and there is a heightened sense of community among staff members and the community.  We have worked together to navigate a difficult summer and will move into the 2012-2013 school year with a renewed focus on our community through our simple (but powerful) theme of "Better Together!"

I can only hope that every principal has the privilege of leading and participating in a community like the one at Bear Tavern Elementary School!

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