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A Message from Yvette Goorevitch

A Message from Yvette Goorevitch
Posted on 02/25/2018
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To Our Norwalk Public Schools Community,

Over the past week and a half, our schools have experienced loss and trauma. First, along with the rest of the nation, we felt the shock and grief that followed the senseless violence at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.  Just days later, we mourned the untimely death of one of our own, a beloved first grade student. Along with district support staff and grief counselors, our community reached out to the family and Columbus school community, holding them close. Trained staff watched for signs of vulnerability. They held the hand and hugged the children with a disability to assure them that they were not at greater risk. We were one. May her memory be for blessing. 

On the same day, Norwalk's first responders along with Norwalk High and district staff handled a potential threat with efficiency and effectiveness. Protocols were in place that allowed for a safe and orderly investigation. All students and staff were able to return safely home to their families that night. The school returned to assemblies and classes the next day.

Since that time, a flurry of social media has taken place. Students and adults, in an unkind way, began to target a student online. Knowing the situation firsthand, I know that some of the commentary contained facts, while other parts are just that -- commentary and opinion.  Either way, a digital footprint is difficult to erase.

As the new Chief of Specialized Learning and Student Support Services in this great City, I know there are essential steps we are taking to heal as a community, with special sensitivity to students with disabilities and their families. I wanted to share those with you today.

First:  We must allow the protocols in place and the staff trained to intervene and do their jobs in any potentially dangerous situation.  As a nation, we’re on heightened alert. I am comforted to know that Norwalk reviews its protocols on a regular basis.

Second: We must assure the safety of any student who is vulnerable during these stressful times. Staff will be re-trained in standard protocols of risk assessment. Often, students with disabilities or those who have most recently experienced death, loss or trauma are most vulnerable. As is our protocol, a risk assessment was immediately completed and a safety plan is in place for re-entry to school, while investigations are being completed.

Third:  We are expanding our collaborations with community based agencies. We are pleased to announce a partnership with the Child Guidance Center of Mid-Fairfield County, which will provide intensive support to staff and students using a trauma informed treatment approach. The schools cannot do this work alone. We are grateful to our partners. 

Fourth: We must move beyond tolerance and acceptance into forming friendships that celebrate our rich diversity with respect for individual differences. We are about to re-launch our “Best Buddies” chapters in four of our secondary schools. Best Buddies forms real friendships among typical peers and students with disabilities by identifying common interests and supporting these friendships through planned activities in schools and in the community. No one should eat alone. Every student is valuable and can make a contribution to our community. We thank the SPEDPartners organization for their support of the Best Buddies initiative.

Fifth:  While the debate about school safety continues throughout the nation, we in Norwalk know that inclusive schools exist in inclusive communities. We are planning to pilot two NEST inclusive classrooms. NEST will provide co- teaching with two highly trained teachers, while directly teaching the hidden curriculum of communication and social skills so often missing for our students with disabilities, particularly with developmental disabilities such as autism. We look to the Special Education Development Fund to support the NEST pilot in September 2018. 

Sixth:  As a school community, we are reviewing research-based restorative practices. These practices include programs such as No Place for Hate and Restorative Circles. These are programs that will support Norwalk as a place of kindness and compassion for all students, while we continue to engage in the local and national debates focusing on school safety, cyber-bullying and effective treatment of mental illness.

I could not allow the weekend to go by without reaching out to the Norwalk community to share some of these details. I hope you will join me in supporting these opportunities for healing.  And for all of us, please take the time to hold your children just a moment longer today. 

Best regards,

Yvette Goorevitch
Chief of Specialized Learning and Student Support Services