I write this as we are enjoying the Fundamentals Conference, an event we created for leaders and aspiring leaders to come together to learn some of the intricacies of school operations and take the opportunity to identify their leadership styles, values, and strengths. It has also provided exceptional time for people from across our region to get to know each other better and further strengthen the network among our schools. By the time you read this, I will be on my way to Richmond for an accreditation related meeting, and then next week we have an SAIS board meeting in Atlanta. In short, our spring is probably not unlike yours, where the days of the month seem to fly off the calendar in a frenzy of events, activities, and the inevitable complex moments that present themselves at the end of the academic year on independent school campuses around the country.
This spring has included the tragic loss of members of our SAIS family in the mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville. Mike Hill, Katherine Koonce, Cynthia Peak, Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, and Hallie Scruggs were all part of our community, and integral parts of the lives of their families and friends. We know that many of you have been working to support the school and community. If you are interested in supporting the school’s recovery, you can find that information here. If you are interested in supporting individuals affected by the shooting, that information is here.
Mass shootings have been incredibly rare in private schools of all kinds, to the extent that I can think of two others that meet the definition of mass shootings at a private school, one at Edmund Burke School in Washington, DC, and the other at the Amish West Nickel Mines School in Pennsylvania. To be sure, we have had schools involved in other school shooting incidents (defined as any time “a gun is brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason, regardless of the number of victims (including zero), time, day of the week, or reason”). However, there is no doubt that this shooting at Covenant has impacted our SAIS schools in a markedly different way, in part because of our personal connections with the school, but also because of what I have heard many school leaders reflect, which is that if this could happen at Covenant, it very much can happen on any of our campuses, and the precautions in place may be insufficient to save all lives.
As your school takes steps to consider its safety precautions, you may want to use these resources below. Among the list is a link to the security survey and report we did with our SAIS schools last year, as many schools have been asking about security guards and similar precautions. The resulting tool is a dynamic one in which you can sort by school size, location, etc. We will do this survey again, likely next year, so that we can compare that data over time. The standards of care our schools will be providing on their campuses in this area have been changing rapidly over just the last few weeks, and that change is likely to continue. As this landscape evolves, SAIS will continue to provide schools with additional resources and opportunities to work with and learn from each other.
In the meantime, please stay aware and safe as you continue to guide your school through this spring semester. If there is anything at all we can do for you, please do not hesitate to reach out.
School Safety Resources
SAIS Collected Resources