What a wonderful time of year it is with another full color fall in our town. Halloween in Prescott is filled with fun and tradition as our neighborhoods work hard to decorate and entertain our kids for an unforgettable night of trick-or-treating. I cannot help to think back on our twins’ first jaunt up Mount Vernon with their vibrant blue eyes accented by the orange hoods of their matching tiger outfits. Add to that years of the famous Lincoln Elementary School Halloween Parade around the Courthouse Square. These were some of the reasons my wife and I chose to watch our kids grow up in this special community.
With my heart full of these memories, it is also burdened with sadness and anger. I feel the duty to be very serious in this column today, as the safety of our children was breached recently. Our worst nightmare happened when one was abducted in broad daylight. I want to keep this in perspective, but I want to acknowledge that we somehow failed. In Everybody’s Hometown, where our own Prescott Schools believe deeply in Every Child, Every Day, we failed to keep one safe.
Leading a school district with nearly 4,000 children, the foremost job is to keep every single one safe: at school, at home and everywhere in between. As leaders, we take ownership of this problem. In the Prescott Schools, we are looking within, and searching for ways that this could have been averted. We are brainstorming ideas to make sure it never happens again. We are also asking ourselves where we can be more proactive on the other end, the place where an abused child later turns into a perpetrator. How well we know kids is imperative in providing a trusted place for them to ask for help.
Public schools work (or don’t work) based on the community support around them. In Prescott, our schools are flying with success because of the community that we live in. Our students are thriving
overall thanks to strong parent partnerships, amazing teachers and support staff, who are dedicated to every child. These are community efforts.
Now we need to reflect and reassess what went wrong. We need to work together to make sure this never happens in our town again. As with other tragedies we have faced together, our community knows how to step up and take charge. We must do so now.
Let’s re-up our community conversations and awareness on things like: overall vigilance, “see something/say something,” when to stop and help, how to have trusting adult relationships where students can communicate safely, where to get information on sex offenders, and what to do with that information. Possibly most importantly, how can we prepare our kids on how to handle these terrible situations if faced with them?
More than ever, we must believe in the concept of Every Child Every Day, and fight to preserve our town as Everybody’s Hometown, willing to sacrifice and work hard to protect what we believe is the best place in the world to live and to raise our kids.