HARRISON, N.Y. -- Harrison Central School District Superintendent Louis Wool is confident his faculty and staff would do everything it could to protect their students in an emergency situation if faced with one like the school shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
“It’s a love and deep commitment to the safety and well-being of kids that’s on the top of most of our lists,” said Wool of his fellow superintendents. “We’ve all been in school – most teachers would take the hit for their children.”
During the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Dec. 14, six members of the faculty and staff died while trying to protect the students.
Wool, who is also president of the 82-member Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents, was asked Wednesday at the Performing Arts Center at Purchase, SUNY, how the possibility of fleeing teachers affects school’s emergency plans at the School Safety Symposium.
“In 34 years of public education, I’ve never seen teachers turn away from safety and well-being of kids to take care of themselves,” he said. “I just have not experienced that. I’m sure it happens. I don’t think it’s typical and it’s certainly not typical of the people I’ve encountered.”
The former Mount Vernon superintendent was joined on a panel along with County Executive Robert Astorino, FBI Special Agent Maryann Goldman, Detective Martin Greenberg of the Mount Pleasant Police Department and other school officials.
He told the audience of police, fire, school and government officials from throughout Westchester that once the 3,600 Harrison students enter school, they are the responsibility of Wool along with the faculty and staff.
“If your child needs emergency surgery and I can’t get you, I have to make that the decision,” said Wool. “So the concept of life and death, while it’s amplified in the Newtown event, is something that teachers live with every day and take very seriously.”
While fortifying the schools is an unrealistic expectation, he said, building a stronger community is necessary in order to notice the warning signs prior to a shooting and do something about it.
“The concept of community and collaboration starts with every single individual in the collective community caring about everybody’s kid, not just their own because the best way to build safety is to build a community that says we value and care about all of the individuals that are within that community.”
He also said the Harrison Police Department has trained at and toured every school in the district so that police officers and the school community are prepared in case of an emergency.
“Many school districts already involve the police deeply in the training and we do that multiple times during the course of the year,” he said. “I’m very fortunate. I have a very evolved police department and they have been actively involved in the life of our schools long before Newtown.”