• MS Desk

     

Blog from your Superintendent

  • Thank You!!

    Posted by Melissa Stilley on 2/9/2019

    What an amazing day!!! Today was a first for us. Our inaugural Krewe of Champions parade rolled through the streets of Amite under beautiful blue skies. The sun was shining, as were our students as our community united together to cheer on our most treasured assets, our children!

    As I watched our more than 90-minute long parade roll through the streets of Amite, I couldn’t help but look around and see a sea of smiling faces. From our students to our teachers, our parents, family members, and the community as a whole, everyone was having fun. It didn’t matter if you were from Kentwood or Manchac or any point in between, everyone had come together to celebrate the many accomplishments of our students. It was perhaps the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had as an educator. As a parent and a grandparent, it was one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever seen, and as your superintendent, I can only tell you how thankful I am to have been a part of this fantastic day.

    I want to thank all of you for all you did to make this day possible! From our school leaders and parent volunteers who gave up their Saturday morning to help us deliver the students to Amite to the hundreds of spectators who lined the streets to create our cheering sections, each and every one of you made today something our children will remember for the rest of their lives. Thank you to the “ground crew,” our administrators who worked at the line-up area and helped everyone take their places for the parade. We could not have done this without your efforts! Thank you to our law enforcement and first responders who came from all over the parish to help us! Your efforts to protect and serve our children are very much appreciated! Thank you to our elected officials who joined us to cheer on our champions. Thank you for taking the time from your schedule to show our children just how important they are to our community! Thank you to the businesses and the entire Amite community who welcomed us with open arms this morning! You were great hosts, and I cannot thank you enough for the hospitality you showed us today!

    After the parade, our team gathered for a briefing, and I can assure you that we are already looking ahead to next year! We are already making plans on how to improve this event, and I believe that this is the beginning of another great tradition we have here in Tangipahoa Parish! 

    Thank you all for your support, and thank you for all you do to support the true stars of our community—our children!

    Krewe of Champions

    Comments (-1)
  • Krewe of Champions Parade

    Posted by Melissa Stilley on 2/7/2019

    Saturday is our Krewe of Champions Parade and I simply cannot wait! 

    For the last several weeks our team has been working feverishly to do something we’ve never done before—in fact, we believe this could be a first for our entire region, if not the entire state! Saturday’s parade is a celebration of our students, and it’s going to be phenomenal! 

    Did I mention we have more than 150 entries confirmed already?!!!!

    Here’s the exciting part—this parade is all about our students! We are going to showcase the great young people and the amazing things they are doing in our schools every day! We’re going to introduce you to some of the very best and brightest in our community, and they represent excellence in academics, athletics, and extra-curricular activities.

    Participating in this year’s parade, we have students of the year, spelling bee winners, State Championship athletes, and spirit groups. We will also welcome school bands from all over the parish, Pro-Start chefs, dancers, BETA Club and 4-H Club members, Homecoming Queens, Social Studies fair winners, JROTC cadets, PBIS super students, and many other student groups! We also have our State Runner Up for Principal of the Year and a host of our local Teacher of the Year winners. It’s an incredible group, and I can’t wait to see everyone lining the streets of Amite to celebrate our inaugural Krewe of Champions!

    The parade rolls at noon sharp! We will line up in the Tangilena Shopping Center on LA 16 west (Regions Bank, Dirt Cheap, and House on the Rock Church are in this shopping center). Our champions will ride east on LA 16, cross the railroad tracks, and linger briefly outside the Boston Restaurant where a host of local officials will be on hand to “toast” the students. Then the Krewe will continue traveling eastbound on LA 16 just past Amite City Hall, and the parade will disband between Myrtle Street and Duncan Avenue.

    We encourage everyone to come out and celebrate our champions! It’s going to be a great day, and the first in what I hope will be a long tradition of celebrating our students in Tangipahoa Parish! I hope to see you and your family there!

    Krewe of Champions

    Comments (-1)
  • Thank You from Mrs. Stilley

    Posted by Melissa Stilley on 1/30/2019

    I want to offer a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped us make school happen--albeit a couple hours later Tuesday morning! From our employees to our parents and families, everyone made sacrifices to make sure that our students could safely arrive at school after the worst of the weather. I want you to know that I know these schedule changes are hard on you, and I appreciate your willingness to work with us through these weather emergencies.

    Mornings like we had this week are TOUGH! Our team actually started monitoring this weather system last weekend, weighing our options, and studying the timing down to literally the last possible hour. Your safety is our number one priority, and our people deserve that level of diligence. 

    While there probably is never going to be a perfect answer, I think our team handled this like troopers! At the end of the day, we wanted to be able to say that we did not put anyone in harm’s way. We wanted to be respectful of everyone involved, show compassion to all those who would be impacted by our decision, and make a great choice that would do the least amount of harm to our community.

    I hope we met those goals. If you see an opportunity for us to improve, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally at Melissa.Stilley@TangiSchools.org

    Again, I thank you for all you do to help our students, and I thank you for your support.

    Thank You

    Comments (-1)
  • Harmony and Unity

    Posted by Melissa Stilley on 1/21/2019

    I want to brag on our Tangipahoa Parish School Board. But first, does anyone remember the Coca-Cola Christmas commercials?  https://youtu.be/_zCsFvVg0UY

     
    Last week, at our Tangipahoa Parish School Board retreat, I couldn’t help but think about the words of this jingle from the 1970s. The word that always stood out in the commercial for me was “harmony,” and that’s the word that our Board talked about for more than an hour last Thursday in their team-building exercise.
     
    Allow me for a moment to set the scene: School Board President Sandra Bailey Simmons asked us to go around the room and talk about our goals for 2019. I talked a little about my word for the year, “Unity,” and I was so excited to hear each and every one of our board members talk about their goals and their commitment to unity in our parish.  Mrs. Simmons described it as a collective “harmony,” a “singleness of goals,” in which we were “all in one accord.” 
     
    “We may disagree on how to do things, but we agree to respect each other,” Simmons said, a sentiment in which each board member concurred. And then, one by one, each board member outlined his or her plans and goals for our district, and it was amazing to see that among our nine members, we really have the same three goals that we all want to accomplish in this new year:
     
    Goal 1: Unity. That means the Board, the district, our families, our students, our community—EVERYONE—working together. 
     
    Goal 2: Focus. We need to focus our efforts on the classroom, not the courtroom. That means doing what it takes to resolve the lawsuits, both the deseg case and other litigation. 
     
    Goal 3: Funding. We need to develop a plan to handle the growth of our system. Portable buildings are not good options for us, but we currently don’t have the money available to construct permanent buildings. We need to develop a plan that takes all of this into account. We want to be good stewards of the public’s funds and worthy of their trust.
     
    Big goals. But I know we can do it, as long as we work together.
     
    One of our newest board members, Jerry Moore, offered this analysis: “We have as much in common as we have differences, but this is OUR parish. And these are OUR kids.”
     
    And just like that, we have collectively agreed that the kids—OUR KIDS—must be OUR focal point.
     
    Together we can build a better future for them. At the end of the day, every child in Tangipahoa Parish should be afforded the same opportunities regardless of their zip code.  And we should do it because it’s the right thing, not because it’s something a judge ordered us to do. It’s about staying true to our core values of being compassionate, being respectful of one another, and together, being GREAT.
     
    As we take time today to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, I can’t help but wonder if that is the heart of Dr. King’s message. TOGETHER, we can make that perfect harmony.  Together we can build a stronger tomorrow for our community. 
     
    That future begins today, and it begins with each of us.
     
    I am so proud of our board and their commitment to UNITY. I feel certain that this will bring us one step closer to the future we all want for our children. 
    Comments (-1)
  • Catching the Spirit

    Posted by Melissa Stilley on 1/15/2019

    What a great first week of the new semester! Everyone from our students and school system employees to our families had a great first week back, and everywhere I go, I hear an excitement in this community. I think all of us anticipate GREAT things in 2019, and the excitement is contagious!

    Last week, as I traveled the parish and attended a number of local events, I couldn’t help but smile as I heard our word—UNITY—reiterated over and over again! From our new School Board to our local civic organizations to the Greater Hammond Chamber of Commerce installation ceremony, everyone is focused on one Tangipahoa, unified and working together as a family.

    WOW! 

    Speaking of family, our first-ever Krewe of Champions parade to celebrate our students is really coming together! Here’s what we know so far: 

    The parade will roll on Saturday, Feb. 9, at noon, in downtown Amite. Line up will begin at Amite Elementary School and head west on US 51 to 1st Street. We will then turn north on 1st Street and proceed one block before heading east down Mulberry Street to the Tangipahoa Parish Courthouse. 

    We are expecting spirit groups from our schools and a showcase of our students of the year and our teachers of the year. We will also salute our various state and parish championship teams and a host of other student achievements.

    We are still looking for participants in this inaugural event! Be sure to email your principal to nominate students who should be recognized in this year’s Krewe!

    Finally, I want to congratulate our students who have completed all of their first semester course-work. This first semester was tough. The new Tier I curriculum we are using is much more challenging than the programs we previously used, and from what we are seeing on the district level, our students are working hard, taking on the challenges of the new curriculum and exceeding our expectations for implementation this first year. Great job!!!

    I also want to thank our families for your commitment to our new curriculum. We have been really excited to work with many of our families, helping them help their students at home. We will be offering many more workshops and online materials to help you help your students with their homework. 

    I’m also excited to announce that we have seen substantial progress in our parish’s truancy and high-absenteeism rate. You may remember that in the past, our parish had one of the highest truancy rates not only in Louisiana but also across the nation. Not any more. Thanks to your commitment to keeping our students in the classroom, Tangipahoa Parish has cut its truancy rate in half for the first semester! That’s incredible progress, but we need to keep that momentum going! As you know, the work we do this semester is critical to your child’s success. The difference between pass and fail happens right now in every classroom across our parish. Every day that your child is IN school is a day to the positive. Your child’s grades are evidence of it, and I have the data to prove it. Please join me in keeping our students’ eyes on the prize. 

    As always, thank you for your prayers and support! If there is anything I can do to help you, do not hesitate to email me at Melissa.stilley@TangiSchools.org. Thanks again, and let’s put our best foot forward in 2019!

    Comments (-1)
  • Happy New Year 2019

    Posted by Melissa Stilley on 1/7/2019

    Friends:

     

    Welcome back! I pray that your holiday was enjoyable and that you are both well-rested and energized to finish the good work you are doing with our students!

     

    While I know that our students are ready to see us (and their families are probably ready to get back in school routine), please know that professional days like today are so important to us as a school community. I’m glad we have these few hours to work one-on-one with each other, sharing ideas and inspiring our co-workers as we push forward into 2019. These are critical teaching moments with one another, and I know that much of what you do today will impact the work you do with our students tomorrow and every day thereafter. 

     

    This morning, as I visit several of our sites, I am struck by the sense of family we have here in the Tangipahoa Parish School System. While the time away from work was therapeutic for many of us, we have members of our TPSS family who struggled through these two weeks due to sickness and death. Our Central Office team will not be the same this morning without Jo Ellen Marten, who died after a valiant battle with cancer just before Christmas. We are also mourning the senseless death of the 13-year-old son of one of our teachers, Coach Robert West. Several co-workers lost loved ones over the holiday as well. Today we stand united with these families as we pray for comfort for them through the tears.

     

    I’ve been thinking a lot about family these last few weeks. We added the newest member to our family over the holidays, and I know there have been several co-workers who welcomed little ones over the holiday. We also have at least a couple co-workers who have been praying for miracles in their lives, and those prayers were answered this holiday season. It’s been a time for great sadness and a time for great joy. Of course, that’s how it is with life and with family. We celebrate together. We mourn together. We work together to get ourselves through all these moments.

     

    As I was driving around last week trying to think of what I wanted to share with you on this first day back, I heard a radio call in show about new year’s and a tradition that many people have of picking their theme or their “word” for the new year. Last fall we picked our theme of “Oh the Places We Will Go,” and I think this time spent thinking about our system as a family has me really thinking about togetherness. We can’t do this work alone. We are many parts, and the way we work best is working together in one purpose. Together working as one. 

     

    Unified.

     

    Unity.

     

    After a great deal of reflection, I think that if our parish could focus on one word for 2019, it would have to be “unity.” We crave unity at every level—unity with God, unity with our family, and unity across our parish.

     

    Unity with God. I truly believe that it will take God’s interventions here in Tangipahoa to move us beyond the things that divide us. We truly have to move to a place where there are no limits, where there are no boundaries, where there are no lines setting one apart from another. The challenges we face cannot be overcome by man. We need to seek HIS guidance to lead us to reach our true potential. I pray that we as a parish can join together in daily prayer for His revelation and His intervention in our affairs as we work through very complicated work – the desegregation case, revenue shortfalls, salary studies, facilities planning, communication plans, and academic excellence. Let’s all encourage our churches to pray parish wide for us to reach our potential in 2019.

    Unity with our families. It seems that so many families are at odds with each other these days. I pray that God heals our family differences so that we can move forward together. So many of our own employees have lost family members during the past year as well as during the Christmas holidays. We have lost mothers, fathers, children, and co-workers. For me, it just illustrates the importance of our family. You never know when your last moment will be with some of your family members or co-workers.  Many of our employees have given birth to sweet babies over the course of last year. I am reminded that God blesses us with children here on earth and HE also brings HIS children home. Let’s unify to not only support our blood family, but our work family as well.

    This makes me think of the words to this song – Lean On Me

    You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
    We all need somebody to lean on
    I just might have a problem that you'll understand
    We all need somebody to lean on

    Lean on me, when you're not strong
    And I'll be your friend
    I'll help you carry on
    For it won't be long
    'Til I'm gonna need
    Somebody to lean on

    Unity across our parish. I first saw this at our high school football state championship in the dome, when I noticed several other head high school football coaches standing on the sidelines in support of Amite and Kentwood as they fought for the state titles to bring back home to Tangi. In the stands, you would see people from all over Tangi there in support of our two state championship teams. Many citizens joined the game by listening to the radio play by play. My hope for 2019 is that we all come together as one parish rather than delegations of communities across our parish.

     

    I firmly believe that when we resolve to unify our people and treat each other with compassion then and only then will we find a resolution to the challenges that keep us from reaching our true potential.

     

    Speaking of potential, we wanted to kick off 2019 with a celebration, and our team has come up with a GREAT idea! On February 9, we will have our first annual Krewe of Champions parade to celebrate our champions across the parish. We wanted a way to celebrate our students, both academically and athletically. This is more than just a parade--it will be a celebration of unity across our great parish, highlighting all of our champions! I challenge you to think outside the box and help us feature the children you serve in this first-ever event! We will be sharing more information on this in coming days. 

     

    I cannot wait to see what 2019 has in store for our school system family! May ‘unity’ be our word for 2019, a word that we model every day of the year – unity with God, unity with Family, and unity across our parish! If we can do that, I have no doubt 2019 will be our best year yet!

     

    Happy New Year, and welcome back!


    Melissa

    Comments (-1)
  • What A Great Week!

    Posted by Melissa Stilley on 12/5/2018 8:00:00 AM

    What a great week!

    Spirits are high as Tangipahoa prepares to make not one but TWO appearances at the State High School Football Championship games. Our Kentwood High Kangaroos and the Amite High Warriors are making their latest trips to the Superdome in an attempt to cap off their seasons with championship trophies. It’s an exciting time not only for these young men and their families but for our entire parish, which will take centerstage at noon on Thursday and again on Friday.

    We don’t talk about the impact of sports on our schools and our students very much, so this is a good time to point out that academics and athletics, as well as other extra-curricular programs, work hand-in-hand to create a well-rounded student. Aside from the simple health benefits of physical activity, there’s a host of important life skills our students learn from team sports—from cooperating with others to self-discipline and of course, building a strong work ethic. Our championship teams are demonstrable proof that hard work pays off, and these young student-athletes are a great example to their peers and our younger students, who look up to them.

    Of course, these players are students first, and I know their coaches remind them every day that they have to keep up with their schoolwork to be able to play on Friday nights. Talk about a tough schedule! I’m so proud of these players, because they’ve learned how to balance school and sports, and their hard work is making them successful both on and off the field. 

    So as we head into Thursday and Friday’s games, I ask that you join me in saluting the hard work that our student-athletes have put in throughout this fall semester. We are so proud of them, and we wish them great success in their State Championship bids. I can’t wait to be there cheering them on, and I look forward to seeing many of you in the Dome as well. 

    #TangiProud

    Cheer for your Teams

    Comments (-1)
  • #TangiProud

    Posted by Melissa Stilley on 9/21/2018

    So tell me: who doesn’t like a little good news every now and then?

    I admit it. I’m a positive person. Sometimes I’m positive to a fault. It’s just my nature. I always look for the good in a person or a situation.That’s a characteristic my parents instilled me, and I’m proud to say that I instilled it in my own children and in the children I’ve taught throughout the years. I firmly believe in the power of good news.

    Of course, there’s science to suggest the long-lasting effect of such good news. In 2015, former reporter Michelle Gielan released a book called “Broadcasting Happiness” which studied the impact of good news on TV. She found that broadcast news viewers who watched “good news” in the morning reported having a good day 88 percent of the time! Can you imagine? One little nugget of good influenced those viewers so deeply that they reported their entire day was positive! 

    I’ll take that kind of positivity any day of the week!

    Keeping that in mind, I have challenged our principals to share with me just one good thing happening at their schools every week. We call this our “weekly brags,” and they have become some of my favorite things to read! All over our parish, GREAT things are happening in our classrooms, on our playgrounds, and around our school communities! 

    There are entirely too many good things happening in our schools this fall, but these are among my favorite brags in recent days:

    *Independence High recently held a blood drive. Principal Chasity Collier led the way and impressed upon her students the importance of donating blood.
    collier
    *At Greenville Park, the 7th Grade American History students are studying the effects of the French and Indian War while our 8th Graders are analyzing the Mississippi River Watershed system. Check out this video: https://youtu.be/uYuj2nMMAqI

    *At Loranger Elementary, second grade teacher Brandy Tuminello created homemade rekenreks to share with teachers. This tool helps our Eureka math students visualize the concepts being taught in their classrooms.



    LES Rekenreks *Woodland Park 2nd Grade students are making Eureka math fun, learning to measure using centimeter cubes. 

    Two students using Centimeter Cubes

    *At Sumner, student Deandra Womack earned a shout-out for designing the cover art for all of the school’s 2018 sports programs. Deandra is an Adobe-certified associate in Photoshop, and she’s showcasing her talent to design and publish her work, which is printed in the school’s business department.

    SHS Student showing program cover

    *Sumner and Amite High School’s Talented Theatre students have started work on their 20th annual student-developed, written, and produced movie project. Filming will begin in just a few weeks, and the movie premier date is scheduled in early 2019!

    *In Ponchatoula, our little Tucker Gators have learned to say “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry.” Each week one student from every first and second grade class at Tucker is awarded the “Golden Gator” designation and recognized in a group photo that is sent out to the local media and posted on the school website.

    And there are countless more brags I wish I could share with you tonight. Of course, our district is constantly looking for ways to celebrate our students, and we highlight their accomplishments not only on their individual school websites, but also on our district website, in the local media, and on social media. We have showcased our students’ success stories at our monthly board meetings, which are recorded and available for viewing on YouTube. We have so much to be proud of in our school system, and I hope you’ll join me in to taking a few minutes each week to see the good things happening in our schools. We are making progress every day, changing our students’ lives and building stronger communities for tomorrow.

    Comments (-1)
  • Safety, Communication, and Awareness

    Posted by Melissa Stilley on 9/10/2018

    What a beautiful morning! As I sit here this morning, watching birds play in our back yard, I can’t help but be grateful. Last week was tough, but here we are, relaxing under blue skies, having made it safely through those tough days and looking forward to a GREAT week ahead!

    So aside from the weather, what’s been happening in our schools? I’m proud to say that in spite of the weather, our teachers wrapped up the first phase of our active shooter training this week. I don’t know what makes me more excited—is it the fact that every school employee in Tangipahoa Parish has now been educated on the most up-to-date theories on how to protect our students in the event of a crisis on campus? Or is it the fact that when challenged to complete this training before Christmas, our school employees were so receptive to this program and eager to get started that our entire parish completed their training in less than 45 days after I issued the challenge? 

    I cannot fully express how proud I am of our team for taking this challenge to heart and getting our employees trained so quickly. I want to thank everyone for getting on board with this initiative. I know the training schedule presented some challenges to each of us. I especially want to thank our parents who supported us when we announced that we would have to close school sites early to hold these seminars. Our parents and caregivers not only encouraged us but also helped us by taking on that half-day dismissal without any question. As always, I am blown away by your support!

    As many of you know, several schools have already been called to put their training into action. What you may not realize is that safety protocols are put to use in all of our schools many times throughout the year. That doesn’t mean we have someone on campus with a gun. A lot of times, our schools are put on safety alert for things happening several blocks away in a neighborhood or down the road. Sometimes our schools are put on alert for weather-related issues like a tornado warning. Sometimes we’re asked to stay in place because of a suspicious person walking down the road near a school. Sometimes it simply involves a custody dispute or a family crisis that bubbles over to a campus. In those cases, we use a term, “lockdown” to indicate to our team on site and to the public as a whole that there is a safety issue in or around that campus. 

    What I’ve learned in these first few weeks as superintendent is that the term “lockdown” causes as much emotional strife as whatever the safety issue is that prompted us to use that word. I actually prefer the term “locked in,” or the old-school “lock-in,” which more accurately reflects the protocols we employ to protect your child in that situation. Just like you would do at home, the child is instructed to stay in a particular room or set of buildings until the threat passes. Our teachers go out of their way to make these “locked-in” episodes mirror a typical school day. Sometimes when these threats occur over several hours, our teachers have to get creative, and you’ll probably hear that students were given treats like watching a movie in school or having lunch brought to them at their desks during a “lock-in” event. The goal first and foremost is to make students comfortable and keep them safe even during these heightened alerts.

    Moving forward, I’m asking for your input and your suggestions on how we can better communicate those safety concerns with our community. We already have systems in place to send out automated calls, texts, and emails to our parents who are registered in our system--by the way, if you’re not getting those notices, please contact your child’s school so we update your info and make sure you’re getting those notices! This semester, we’ve also allowed our students who had cell phones to call or text their parents to let them know what was happening at school and keep them in the loop with their children. We’ve also, with the help of our local law enforcement officials, had an opportunity to set up an off-site staging location near school where parents could wait for their children, if they choose to do so, as a result of a safety issue on campus. These are just a few of the accommodations we’ve implemented, and I’m open others, assuming they can be cleared with our law enforcement partners. So let me know what you’d like us to look into or if you’ve heard about strategies being used successfully in other districts, please pass those along to me. I am always looking for ways for us to improve!

    Speaking of improvement, I want to give a big shout out to our schools that have started their own Facebook channels on social media! Facebook is an excellent way to reach our parents and it’s a wonderful tool to showcase the GREAT things happening in our schools. I am excited to see new school-based FB pages being established by our school administrators, and I look forward to seeing how they use this technology to communicate with our parents. Times change, and as school personnel, we need to be a part of that change. Facebook is just one way that we are adapting to communicate with our parents using the tools they like to use to communicate.

    Another way that we are communicating is by continued meet and greet and networking-type events. On Thursday, I attended the Greater Hammond Chamber’s meet and greet event for the fall elections. This was an excellent program, and I commend the Chamber for their constant efforts to educate and raise public awareness on community happenings. One question I heard over and over again at the Thursday event involved our School Board and who my choice would be for Board member. Let me say this publicly: like you, I am simply one voter. I do not endorse a single candidate nor do I have any reason to push one candidate over another. At the end of the day, I am a school board employee; I work for the Board, and as I said during the interview process, I intend to work with all Board members, no matter who is chosen. The public chooses the Board and the Board chooses a Superintendent, not the other way around. School Board policy is also very clear that employees are not to get involved in political contests, so you won’t find me pushing any particular candidate, nor will I be asking you to vote a certain way. That’s not my role. 

    I will ask you to take time to study the ballot. I think it’s critical that all of our voices are heard. And if you want to be sure your voice is heard, please take the time to vote. It’s a right and a privilege, and as we head into another week—particularly this week when we remember those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, I think it’s important to remember that freedom is not free, and that we need to treasure the freedoms we are afforded here in the United States. I pray that is something we never forget.

    Please give us your feedback on school safety concerns below:

     

    Comments (-1)
  • School Safety

    Posted by Melissa Stilley on 8/30/2018

    I’m sitting here tonight, still thinking about this day and focusing like many of you are tonight on school safety.

    Today was one of those days.

    Between you and me, it really started Wednesday afternoon, when I learned that one of our students had reported a threat to her school administrator.

    The principal contacted law enforcement, and together they worked through the night to resolve the issue and make arrangements to safely open school for our students this morning. They handled it like professionals, and the principal even shared with me that while she was sad to have to take these steps, she was so thankful for the recent training she and her team had completed, so everyone was on the same page on how to proceed. She also expressed appreciation to that one brave student who came forward and felt a need to communicate the problem. 

    I thought for a moment that perhaps we were making progress. And then, just a few hours after the all clear sounded on one case, another emerged. That’s the case that so many of you have heard about and watched unfold on TV and social media today. I was in constant communication with our team at Vinyard Elementary and law enforcement, and I’ve got to tell you that our children were in very good hands. Every member of our team was focused like a laser beam on one goal—making sure that our students were safe, and I can assure you that they were, thanks to so many of our partners.

    Tonight, I want to thank our parents and community members, too. As a mom, I know how frightening it was to hear about the events of this morning, and I know that many of you waited in the hot sun, camping out until you could be reunited with your children. Through it all, you worked with your child’s school; you worked with law enforcement, and at the end of the day, you were a huge part in helping us reassure your children that they were safe and that there were a lot of people who care about them and who are looking out for their well-being.

    I want to thank those teachers and lunchroom workers who creatively found ways to make our children feel safe in this trying situation. Our lunchroom workers were amazing today! When the children couldn’t come to lunch, our cafeteria team brought lunch to them, and they made it fun and special, and it was just another way to reassure our children that everyone was working together to make them safe.

    By the way, we got the call right around lunch time that investigators had resolved the case, and I cannot thank our local heroes, those men and women in blue, for all they did today to keep our children safe. Sheriff Edwards called me many, many times to reassure me that his deputies were doing all they could, and I am so thankful for their efforts and the efforts of all the partner agencies like Louisiana State Police, the Department of Public Safety, U.S. Customs, and Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, who were an integral part of this case. Thank you one and all!

    By the way, in the middle of all of this, our Roseland and Amite schools were attending their own crisis management training in Amite. The effort to keep every child in every school safe never ever stops. School safety is critical, because at the end of the day, our schools are an extension of home.

    Our schools are safe havens. They are our students’ home-away-from-home. 

    Safety is therefore imperative.

    I know a lot of people worry when they hear that a school has been put “on lockdown.”  That word “lockdown” brings to mind some really horrific images, scenes that have become all-too-familiar in schools and communities across the United States. 

    I am thankful to say that we have never had that level of threat in a Tangipahoa Parish public school, and I pray that we never will.

    That said, we remain vigilant, hosting these training exercises, and preparing for the worst--the unspeakable--while praying we never need to use those skills.

    Today was one of those days. It could have been so much worse.

    Thanks to so many of you, we got through it. Together.

    And tomorrow will be a better day.

    Comments (-1)