Dr. Jan Harris
The Cullman Times
My aunts and uncles like to tease me about how, when I was a little girl, I wanted to sleep with my shoes on. I liked shoes then, and — like many girls — I like shoes now. It seems that, as a two-year-old, I liked shoes so much that I didn’t want to take them off at night when it was time to go to sleep. And so, when I see cherished family members, I am often teased about the shoes I have on, and I will be asked if I will be sleeping in my shoes that night.
More and more, and this week, in particular, it seems that school leaders are, metaphorically speaking, sleeping with our shoes on. Never before has there been a greater sense of urgency for superintendents and principals to be focused on school safety. We have to be ready or “have our shoes on” at all times. Our attention oscillates between important issues such as safety, weather, academics, extracurricular events, special education, business matters and personnel. But, student and staff safety is the most important area.
It has been an evil, nightmarish week for those in Newtown, Connecticut. And, it has been a hard week for all Americans and Cullmanites as we explore the myriad faces of evil in our society, and our unified desire to shield our children from its angry hands. Jesus, the Master Teacher, said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10) We acknowledge that evil wishes to steal, kill and destroy, and yet, we do not wish to live in a police state. We know that there are no certainties in our world – no perfect fix. But, as Chief Culpepper says, we should plan for the worst and pray for the best.
The support realized this week, and always, from Mayor Townson and the City Council, Chief Kenny Culpepper and the Cullman Police Department, parents, and others has been amazing. On behalf of the Cullman City Board of Education, principals, faculty, staff and students, thank you. Chief Culpepper, thank you for increasing school patrols, and placing a police officer at each of our schools this week. It was comforting, and it was appreciated by all.
The Cullman City Team is working together to ensure that our schools are as safe as possible for our deserving students. We hosted safety meetings this week with Chief Culpepper, principals and others, and we discussed ways to tighten security in our schools. Parents and citizens have offered to help where needed. City officials are looking for ways to support our schools. We began the process last month to hire a school psychologist to help meet the needs of our at-risk students. You can be assured that we will be “sleeping with our shoes on” as we go forward in our quest for safe and orderly learning environments for our students. Educators everywhere solicit your prayers of protection, wisdom and comfort today, and always.
* Dr. Jan Harris is superintendent of Cullman City Schools.