It isn’t close to Thanksgiving – but I have so much for which to be thankful.
SCS Staff: Yesterday was an intensely stressful day for the whole community. Mr. Oppel, Ms. Lawyer, and Mr. Thompson worked much of the night before and gathered information for our police. Yesterday morning, they presented a calm, positive, and unified front to the students. I’m thankful for our Information Technology Director, Erin Humphrey, who worked with me to get the first call out on Tuesday night. She frequently works late in the evening and she was there when I needed her. Our cafeteria manager and staff changed the menu and adjusted the volume of food served because of the reduced attendance. Since the menu was different than advertised, they pulled out some yummy ice cream to treat the students. Our office staff is so diligent that plainclothes police were not granted entrance until they showed their credentials. This is the normal visitor protocol at SMS. Our maintenance staff helped monitor the doors. Many of our teachers and staff used the day for activities they might not be able to do with a full class. With a big smile on her face, Mrs. Mahuron told me during a passing period that her students were enjoying some special experiments and making a mess. Mr. S-P set about organizing the choir room. These are just two examples of how our teachers constantly strive to provide a positive environment for students.
While our other two schools were not identified as a target of any threat, it affected them as well. They made similar adjustments to the day. College visits went as planned and students were learning.
Superintendent’s office: We have a small staff. We had many phone calls. Our staff strives to make sure each and every call is promptly answered in a pleasant manner. I am thankful for such dedicated co-workers.
Law Enforcement: I am grateful for our local law enforcement, especially our School Resource Officer, Carey Cook, who notified me immediately. Whether they are Salem PD, Indiana State Police, or our Sheriff’s department, our officers are committed to serving and protecting our community. Our chief of police, Joey Wheeler, was on vacation and he spent one of his vacation days with me at SMS. Our officers listen to our teachers and administration. Most of our officers either have or have had family in our school system. We understand they cannot share all information with us and I trust them. I am confident we have enough information to know this is a nasty, ugly, disgusting hoax sweeping across our nation. These narcissistic individuals, who caused us so much turmoil, delight in stirring up communities and using our students to promote themselves on social media.
Parents: Our children are more precious than anything else in the world. As a mother, I understand the deep need to keep our children protected. We appreciate our parents who had faith and trusted we would keep our students safe. We understand the parents who decided to keep their children at home. We respect the decisions of our parents.
SCS Board of School Trustees: When I first received information on Tuesday night, my first calls were to Mr. Oppel, Ms. Lawyer and Mr. Thompson. The next calls I made were to our board. Each offered to do whatever necessary to help. Most importantly, for many years, the Board of School Trustees have supported and approved each and every security project we have requested. Each year we have taken the funds from our Safe Schools grant and put it toward our resource officer and a facility security project. We have cameras inside and outside, improved locking system, redesigned entrances with audio and video monitors to screen visitors, bullet-resistant glass in our doors and most importantly, we have staff who know our students and our students trust them enough that the “see something, say something” posters are how we function. The very best security devices anyone could have are trust and communication. That is the SALEM WAY and our board has always encouraged and supported creating a safe environment for all.
Our local media: I am thankful we have our own newspapers and radio in Salem. We do not have to rely on outside media to communicate with our community. The Leader and the Banner are always receptive to publishing stories about events and happenings in our schools. WSLM promotes all schools and has dedicated time slots so our county schools can inform their listeners. Yesterday, Monika Spaulding, Leader Publishing Company AND a Board of School Trustee member, worked tirelessly on Facebook and the Leader site to update the public on Salem Middle School. She answered questions that normally would have come to my office. And she may not think I had time to notice, but after I got home last night from the SMS volleyball game, I read through our media websites to see if they had information I did not. Rebecca White, WSLM AND a Board of School Trustee member was relentless with gathering information from the police. She was able to get details that we could pass along. And maybe I should have put this under the School Board section - - but they are professionals. Informing the public is their job and their passion. They do an exemplary job at keeping their roles separate and we are so fortunate to have them.
Our community: I am small town. Plain and simple. Sometimes being in a small town makes for awkward situations because everyone seems to know everyone else’s business, but the majority of the time it is delightful. It is comforting to walk into the hardware store and see your neighbor, to order mulch, have it delivered, and then go pay for it. Think you could do that at Lowes? Salem is a special place. We have similar crime and hardcore issues that will always need to be addressed, but we have a sense of community that wraps around you in time of need and celebration. I am thankful this is my home.