GEB Holds Inaugural Meeting of 2013: Members Discuss Issue of School Safety with DOE Representative

Immediately following the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., AFSA sent a letter to President Obama urging the creation of a National Task Force on School Safety to provide information, best practices and procedures for school leaders to follow.

To kick off the New Year, the General Executive Board met in Washington, D.C., on February 8 and 9. School safety was a key topic of discussion.

In attendance as a guest speaker during the weekend’s events was David Esquith, director of the Office of Safe and Healthy Students for the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), who presented the education-related components of President Obama’s “Now Is The Time (NITT) plan.

The four major goals of the education components, which aim to protect children and communities by reducing gun violence, include:

  • ensuring every school and institution of higher learning has a comprehensive emergency management plan;
  • creating a safe and positive climate at schools across the country;
  • making sure students and young adults get treatment for mental health issues; and
  • ensuring schools are safe.

Starting in May 2013, the Department of Education will provide schools with a model for developing and implementing a comprehensive school safety plan that works best for them. While excited to see action from the Obama administration on school safety, several members discussed their concern about whether the NITT components sufficiently address the issues facing educators.

Esquith emphasized that while he did not want to diminish the importance or the weight of the tragedy in Newtown, he sees NITT as a step in the right direction. “Is the goal here to come with things that would prevent Newtown,” he asked, “or is the goal here to make our schools safer and more positive, to use this tragedy in a way that moves us forward on a lot of these different fronts?”

In addition to NITT, AFSA is working with the Department of Education to offer members webinar training on School Emergency Management: An Overview (Key Elements in School Emergency Management Planning). Please check www.AFSAadmin.org for more details to come.

AFSA was pleased with the DOE’s effort to work toward a solution and its effort to include AFSA in the planning process.

Legislative

Because Congress was unable to reach an agreement on deficit reduction, sequestration was triggered on March 1, 2013. This will result in an approximately $85 billion across-the-board cut for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013, and approximately $2.3 billion in cuts to the Department of Education.

To counter Republican demands for deep spending cuts and so-called reforms to Social Security and Medicare, AFSA has signed on to a letter with the entire non-defense discretionary community urging Congress to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Sample letters to Congress and letters to the editor were created to help AFSA members communicate sequestration’s effects on their schools to local papers and representatives.

The GEB also is working toward creating a list of recommendations for principal training and evaluations, which will be delivered to the Department of Education once finalized.

Scholarships and Endorsements

The committee agreed to extend the scholarship deadline to the end of March 2013, and to designate an additional scholarship in honor of AFSA Local 113’s Dawn Hochsprung, the principal who gave her life protecting her students at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The GEB also voted to officially endorse the work of The National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, which offers counseling services for students and schools.

Professional Development Opportunity

The committee discussed plans to offer a two-day training workshop in July for members on negotiations. The workshop will take place in Connecticut.

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