by Dr. Cozad
I can’t believe we are nearly to the start of another school year at Bellbrook-Sugarcreek! Before we kick off the school year, I wanted to take this opportunity to communicate with you directly through my inaugural blog entry.
In the days since the tragic shooting in the Oregon District, I have seen our community come together in inspiring ways. I’ve watched as families hug a little longer, as strangers pause to hold a door or share a nod and as friends and neighbors stop to ask a simple, “How are you?”. This is what it means to be Bellbrook Strong. Our families and friends - the community we are so blessed to be a part of - make us stronger. “Strangers” don’t quite feel like strangers when we pause to remember how intrinsically connected we truly are.
As another school begins, we are ever-focused on making sure our students remain safe and our schools remain welcoming. We have always been vigilant about safety at Bellbrook-Sugarcreek and this year is no different. We have protocols and procedures in place, an excellent relationship with our local law enforcement and open dialogue among staff and parents to help ensure that we remain aware and prepared throughout the school year. We do our best to proactively implement the best safety protocols and measures and to prepare our staff and students while always looking for ways to improve our systems and procedures.
We cannot prevent tragedies from happening in our schools, but we try our best to do so and are constantly assessing and refining those efforts. For example, we continue to require anyone entering any of our school buildings during the school year to be buzzed in and report directly to the front office. Additionally, we have a shared School Resource Officer at Bellbrook Middle School and Bellbrook High School. We also have police officers present at both the beginning and the end of the school day at Bell Creek Intermediate and Stephen Bell Elementary. Due to our strong partnership with our local law enforcement, they already have a strong presence at our schools, inside and outside, which will continue throughout this school year and will also be helpful with our transportation modifications. We are grateful for their service to our schools and our community.
Additionally, our staff just completed a day of professional development that included a training on what to do after a crisis has impacted our lives. We felt that this training was timely now but also because tragic events can occur any time and have significant potential to adversely impact academic achievement, and inflict pain, turmoil, confusion and heartache on both students and staff. We won’t be bringing up the events from last week but if students express concerns or have questions, we want to be ready to respond to ensure our staff is empowered with a set of protocols and materials that can be readily implemented following exposure, either directly or indirectly, to a traumatic event.
These precautions and our strong relationship with local law enforcement are paramount to our success in creating a safe, nurturing environment.
When a tragedy or a crisis occurs, no matter how much preparation, training or practice drills, people instinctively act based on character, principles and deeply-held beliefs, which is why it is critical that we always keep our mission at the center of every decision we make - to empower our students to be responsible decision-makers and effective problem-solvers, to persevere in the achievement of life goals, to contribute to communities locally and beyond and to embrace learning as a lifelong process. Our staff is committed to instilling these values both inside and outside the classroom, and I encourage you to embrace these values and discuss ways for your student to practice them at home as well.
Safety at school goes beyond physical safety or reaction in a crisis. Feeling safe at school is about having a safe place to talk and ask questions, it’s also about feeling safe to be yourself. We pursue the physical, social and emotional safety of each student at Bellbrook-Sugarcreek. This means that we try our best to provide an environment that encourages creativity, compassion and innovation.
This year at Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools, we have increased our relationship with the Greene Co. ESC to provide additional time of a mental health specialist serving our district. This in addition to the full time counselors that we have at each of our buildings. We continue to pride ourselves in building positive relationships with our students, continuing with “Character Kids” at the younger ages, espousing always to be your best, and providing a safe and welcoming environment for all to thrive in. Mental wellness is critical if our students are going to succeed in and out of the classroom as well as be resilient and productive members of our community now and in the future.
Mental wellness impacts well beyond our classrooms and we must work together to ensure that our children are given the support they need now and can carry with them into the future. The World Health Organization estimates that depression and anxiety alone cost the United States of America an estimated $1 trillion per year in lost productivity. (Mental Health in the Workplace, World Health Organization, 2019). This is an issue that reaches deep into our country and we are taking steps right here at Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools. Our staff strives to prepare students to not only have the academic knowledge they need but also the skills to maintain their own health and contribute to the wellness of their peers and their community. And it all starts with a safe place to learn, grow, think and be yourself at Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Schools.
This is a time for us to come together as a school and as a community and not only be #DaytonStrong but also #BellbrookStrong. I have made a commitment to continue to show our students what it means to be a community and I hope you will join me in this effort. Together, let us continue asking questions, sharing a smile with a stranger and, most importantly, creating safe places for each other and our students to be themselves because, when we truly feel safe, we can innovate and impact our world and our community for the better.