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A Message from the Superintendent
Schools Cannot Do It Alone
By Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart
As the Superintendent of Hazelwood School District, I strive each day to ensure our schools are safe, educational, and healthy environments. Throughout my career in education, I have consistently been reminded of one universal truth – schools cannot do it alone.
Creating ideal school environments requires a commitment from administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents, and community members. With that in mind, I am asking stakeholders to support two new district campaigns and reinvest in an already award-winning campaign. The No Guns in School, Be the Best on the Test, and Help Hazelwood Get Healthy campaigns are aimed at mobilizing our community to support schools.
No Guns in School is a strategic safety communication campaign that promotes school environments free of guns. Did you know a student who brings a gun to school will be suspended for 180 days? Additionally, barring extenuating circumstances, the student will be expelled, which means they will not be able to attend any public school in the state of Missouri. Students who bring replica guns to school face the same consequences. Recently, multiple students have brought BB guns to school. Most of the BB guns have been indistinguishable from real guns. Those situations have caused the same level of disruption to the school environment as a real gun, and are not treated as toys, but as weapons. Our No Guns in School campaign is about making sure the aforementioned items stay out of our schools.
The campaign elements include an HSD Safety Tip Line, which is monitored 24 hours a day and allows stakeholders to anonymously report anything that threatens the safety of our learning community. In support of this campaign, I am asking parents to talk with their children about the dangers of guns and the consequences of bringing one to school. We know that guns do not come from schools, so we have to address how school-aged children get their hands on guns. A variety of systemic issues contribute to this dangerous reality, but there are a few easy things community members can do to help keep guns away from students. First, anyone who suspects that a school-aged child has a gun should inform the police or use the HSD Safety Tip Line, which can be found on the district website. Second, gun owners should keep their weapons locked in a safe, closet, or case away from children.
Be the Best on the Test is a strategic academic communication campaign that illustrates the benefits of improving state test scores. In the spring of 2022, students across the state of Missouri will participate in state testing. We are unapologetic about our desire to increase state test scores. Achieving our goal will require significant investment from all stakeholders.
Having high state testing scores benefits all HSD stakeholder groups. For students, the benefits include increasing student confidence, scholarship opportunities, attracting college recruiters, and dispelling myths about the likelihood of first-generation college students succeeding. For the district, the benefits include remaining fully accredited, dispelling false narratives about predominantly Black school districts, and remaining financially stable. For the community, the benefits include attracting new residents and businesses to the area, higher property values, and increasing community pride. With the aforementioned benefits in mind, I am asking parents and students to spend extra time working on math problems and reading activities. Additionally, I am asking community members to encourage students to achieve at high levels. Something as simple as telling school-aged children “good luck on the test this spring” can be powerful.
Help Hazelwood Get Healthy is an award-winning strategic public health communication campaign focused on slowing the spread of COVID-19. Launched in the fall of 2020, the campaign encourages people to embrace COVID-19 mitigation strategies, such as masks and vaccinations. Through the first seven weeks of the 2021-2022 academic year, the number of COVID-19 positive students and employees in HSD have both remained below 1%. HSD's success in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in our schools is tied to our mitigation strategies. With that success in mind, I am asking stakeholders to reinvest in this campaign.
One of the best ways for the campaign to achieve its goal is for all eligible individuals to get vaccinated. I understand some of the hesitation people have about the vaccine, particularly people of color. However, the vaccine is our strongest defense against this deadly pandemic. The coronavirus has taken so much away from our country, community, and students. I am unwilling to standby and allow our students to continue to suffer, so I got the vaccine as soon as I was eligible. I am asking everyone who is eligible and not yet vaccinated to consider doing the same. Finally, it is imperative for all stakeholders to recognize that COVID-19 is the enemy. Not school districts, medical professionals, students, parents, or neighbors.
HSD has implemented a variety of district and building-level procedures to achieve the goals of each campaign. That said, the campaigns are much like puzzles. Each stakeholder represents a piece of the puzzle. We need each piece to complete the picture. Schools cannot do it alone. Thank you in advance for your support. To learn more about the campaigns, please visit the district website.
Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart