Friday, January 11, 2013


"Who would like to be on the Social Committee?"
A few grumbles and then some murmurs of assent, and a couple of hands are raised.
"Okay. Who would like to help Ms. Van Meter on the Assembly Committee?"
At first, there is silence. Then a few whispers before two volunteers can be added to the list.
"Alright. Now, in the event that Sandra and I are both shot by an intruder, who would like to be in charge?"
This third question wasn't part of our beginning of the year committee sign-up. It was preparation for our "Alternative Disaster Plan." This is how our district and our school is choosing to deal with the realities presented by the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. In Oakland, there is a small and very busy School Police Force, but there are not nearly enough officers to allot one to each school in the district. For the most part, they are on call for larger disturbances with larger students at high schools and middle schools. The security officer that used to be part of our elementary school's staff is a position that has long since been eliminated by budget constraints.
And so, the question remained: Who would take over if our principal and secretary were unable to take charge from their position at the front of the school? There was a lot of discussion about "what if," and "why not," but the chain of command was left unclear. That's why I raised my hand. Not because I'm a hero. I did it because I'm more concerned about what could happen if there was no one willing to raise their hand. I remember the surprise I felt when I first came to this school and learned that, as part of our job description, we were expected to stay on site up to forty-eight hours in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster. Our job was to make sure that all the kids were safe before we returned to our own homes. As a new father, this rocked me to the core. Would I really be able to make this commitment? Eventually it got easier, as I thought about my son's teachers making that same promise. Someone would look out for him. Fifteen years have passed, and when the time comes each year to make our disaster plan, I explain to our new teachers the reality of their situation. It's part of the job.
As I sat there, with my hand in the air, I tried to think about the potential of a crazed gunman in the same way that I thought about the earthquake. It made me sad to think of it as eventual, but if no one signs up for the social committee, we never get to have any parties. It's part of the job.

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