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'These Difficult Times Pull a Community Together'

A Monroe Board of Education member writes about the Sandy Hook tragedy and the community's response.

 To the Editor:

It is incomprehensible to understand why the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week happened. As a mother and elected official to Monroe's Board of Education, I continue to ask "why?" and wonder what I can do to help. The support of this community, and the resilient nature of the people of Monroe, will help define how we can all help going forward.

I would like to complement the extraordinary leadership of our Superintendant, James Agostine; Assistant Superintendant, John Battista; and the Administrative Team of the Monroe Public Schools.  Not only did they immediately respond to the Sandy Hook Elementary School situation, but they began communicating with parents to apprise them of how the Newtown situation was unfolding.

Jim Agostine has been the leader of the Monroe Public Schools for less than a year.  However, he has already made a measureable impact, particularly with last Friday’s events. Mr. Agostine convened a conference call with the Board of Education members on Friday afternoon and has continued to communicate with us via email during the weekend. His collaborative style has allowed Administrative Staff to provide creative input as to how to effectively communicate with parents and residents so that we know how this tragedy has impacted our schools

Ironically, the District was presented an updated Emergency Plan last week to review which not only included what to do with a school shooting or gas leak, but how to prepare overall for any emergency. The Board of Education will be presented with the same soon — excellent timing!

I had the opportunity to stop by Chalk Hill on Sunday. I was amazed at the how good Chalk Hill looked. A large number of custodians and town staff, including many from Newtown, were working to make this school space clean and sparkling. It was impressive.

This Monroe building, closed as a school since June, 2011, has been the subject of much conversation recently about how it would best be used. Chalk Hill will now continue its educational mission and will replicate the same classrooms of Sandy Hook Elementary School to provide the school’s students with structure and a new, nurturing space in which to learn.

We in Monroe are fortunate to utilize Chalk Hill to provide a sense of normalcy and help the residents of Newtown heal. Again, another example of Mr. Agostine’s leadership.

On Monday, there was police present at our schools. Mr. Agostine and his team also made sure that all teachers had access to counselors and answers to anticipated questions so that Monroe’s children felt safe and secure.

We lost two esteemed teachers recently, Kathy Kuhl and David Martin. I cannot help but believe that these teachers will continue the education of the 20 youngsters we lost on Friday.

These difficult times pull a community together. Great educational leaders help us deal with a tragedy like that at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our thoughts and prayers will always continue to be with the victims of this senseless tragedy.

Lee Reynolds Crouch

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