The recently created Wellesley Action Alliance (WAA), a group of Wellesley residents committed to creating a safer community through awareness and education, may be in its infancy stage but we all know how quickly infants grow and how skilled they are at getting what they want. What does the Wellesley Action Alliance want? School safety. When do they want it? Now.
The group recently hosted a free screening at the Wellesley Free Library of the film Newtown, attended by almost 100, which chronicles the the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history. Filmed over the course of three years, the film weaves together testimonials from parents, teachers, school staff, first responders and clergy members grappling with the tragedy that took the lives of 20 students and 6 educators in Newtown, Conn., in late 2012. Their stories shared in the film document a traumatized community that also proves to be resilient. (If you couldn’t make it to the screening, the film is available for personal viewing through iTunes, Amazon and On Demand.)
State representative Alice Peisch was in attendance and spoke about what Massachusetts is doing to make schools safe. She noted that legislation is in place that requires schools to have a safety plan and that “these safety plan decisions must be made at the local level, since there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.” She also said that Massachusetts is doing what it can to tighten access to the types of assault weapon used in the Newton shooting.
The Wellesley Action Alliance asks the community to consider becoming involved in its mission. Some of its upcoming initiatives:
1) Educational discussions to talk more about what our neighboring communities are doing and what work needs to be done in Wellesley.
2) The group has received approval from the Schofield elementary school administration to implement “Start with Hello” week. February 6 – 10, 2017. The goal of the awareness program is to educate students and the community about what they say is the growing epidemic of social isolation, and empower young people to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness. They hope to get other Wellesley schools to join in.
3) Bringing in a speaker from Safe and Sound Schools, a nationally recognized school safety group founded by a Sandy Hook parent who lost her child during the tragedy.
4. Attending town wide meetings to continue this important dialogue and push the discussion around school safety and town safety forward.
Regarding Wellesley schools safety, Superintendent David Lussier says, “School security has remained a focus for the school department for some years now as reflected in the many steps we have taken during this time. This has included vastly improved building crisis plans, establishing the first Memorandum of Agreement between the Wellesley Police Department and Wellesley Public Schools, the design of a security infrastructure template for all of our buildings, and the rollout of this template that is now in place at three of our ten schools. (WHS, Schofield, Fiske.) We have a proposal going to the Annual Town Meeting for the funds to update our remaining schools. (For a summary, watch our School Committee meeting on Jan. 10th.)
“In short,” continued Lussier, “security has been and continues to be a critical area of our work and our Town Boards and leaders have been incredibly supportive of these efforts. Equally important is our continued work in the area of social and emotional learning. We want all of our kids to feel valued and to have connections at school. This is essential as we know stress levels in communities like Wellesley remain very high.”
For Joelle Reidy, mother of two kids in the Wellesley schools (and one who will age in next year), and and co-chair of the WAA (along with Krisann Miller), that rollout is moving too slowly. “Only three out of ten of the Wellesley public schools, are on industry standard for safety. Just three out of ten. I didn’t come to Wellesley for three out of ten schools to be at industry standard for safety,” Reidy said.
Look out, what we’ve got here is something called Wellesley Mom on a Mission. Those are my absolute favorite kind of Wellesley moms, because they roll up their sleeves and make things happen. I’ve seen it before. What’s about to follow is a force of nature that can’t be stopped. My suggestion: either jump in and help the tsunami force move in the desired direction, or get out of the way.
You can reach the Wellesley Action Alliance at: [email protected]