Safety in our school

Every so often I will be turning over this blog space to another member of our leadership team here at Mary Cariola.  This month I am passing the keyboard over to Dr. Christine Sheffer, our School Superintendent.  Christine is the consummate professional who has a big heart that is open for every student that comes through our doors.



My appreciation to Karen for allowing me to take over her CEO blog to discuss a topic that is near and dear to me and the staff in our school. At a glance, the mission of Mary Cariola Children’s Center school is obvious; to educate and care for children and youth with disabilities and complex medical needs.  Our administrators, educators and clinicians work each day to meet and create new milestones for every student, often times milestones most have thought to be impossible.

As superintendent, my commitment to our mission is unwavering, but I understand we have another responsibility equal to, if not more important to teaching and learning. That mission is the safety of our students and our staff. Safety enters into practically every decision that I make. Looking at things with a focus on safety is something our principals and vice principals do on a daily basis.

Sadly, it seems as if any day of the week we turn on the television news or check our social media feeds to learn of another incident in a school.  The most recent events in Florida have again put the spotlight on school safety.  It is what keeps me up at night, thinking of ways we can make our environment even safer than it is.  I am comforted by the fact we have a comprehensive plan that is constantly being updated and have a Safety Committee committed to keeping students safe.

The Mary Cariola safety plan is updated and submitted each school year to the New York State Department of Education. The plan was written by staff members who have taken certified courses on emergency situations and crisis management conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These team members have consulted with local police authorities and drawn them into the conversation and planning.  Multiple scenarios are addressed and planned for and drills are conducted numerous times each school year. In fact, we drill to meet regulations but then go above and beyond the regulated number of drills.

Upon the completion of each drill the team meets to review how things were conducted and ways to improve and be efficient.  Our safety plan must address our student population, which is dramatically different from other schools in the area. We have students who may be in wheelchairs, who may be non-verbal, who might be in physical therapy or students who may need medications or feeding. The challenges are daunting. And yet, these challenges are addressed and planned for. Experts say the best safety plan is one you never have to implement and that is certainly my hope—but we will continue to have drills, to review and to modify as needed.

The safety plan has been shared with all staff members at both our Elmwood and East Henrietta campuses and in the event of an emergency these are the people I trust and have every confidence that they will perform to the best of their ability to keep children safe.

On a daily basis we have a number of safeguards in place.  Each door that enters Mary Cariola Children’s Center is a secure door that requires a security card or fob to open.  Visitors are only allowed to enter through the main entrance to the school which is overseen by our receptionists and have security doors. Visitors, when allowed entry are required to wear visitor badges to identify them as such.  Lastly all school administration, supervisors, nursing staff and safety team members are equipped with two-way communication devices allowing for immediate information sharing and more important, response.

It is unfortunate in today’s society we even have to think about such things, but it is a sad reality.  Know that we plan, we drill, we review and we are aware of our environment. Our kids are special not because of their needs but because of who they are and we’re committed to doing our best to keep them safe.