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'All in this together'
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Oct 22, 2013 | 1287 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- The Sparks community shows its condolences for Michael Landsberry, the Sparks Middle School teacher who was shot and killed by a student Monday, and Sparks-area administrators say the school district will bind together in tough times.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- The Sparks community shows its condolences for Michael Landsberry, the Sparks Middle School teacher who was shot and killed by a student Monday, and Sparks-area administrators say the school district will bind together in tough times.
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It was not easy for Washoe County School District (WCSD) staff to sit in their respective schools utterly helpless to the events that unfolded at Sparks Middle School Monday morning. The incident was over in about three minutes, but the aftereffects are being felt in every school in the district.

While sadness and grieving were the overwhelming emotions in Sparks, many counselors and principals were busy supporting their fellow administrators and their students in coping with such a tragic event.

“Even though we are a very large district, we are a very small community,” said Angela Flora, principal at Lincoln Park Elementary School in Sparks. “Principals and teachers are very close and there were a lot of phone calls and emails that went out yesterday.

“We have to all be in it together as our district community and we have to let people know we are thinking of them and they, in turn, are thinking of me. We need to help each other through these tough times.”

District counselors held student and parent sessions at Sparks High School Monday morning and the efforts have continued at all schools in the district and at the Johnson Community Center in Sparks. Cindy Raymond, lead counselor at Shaw Middle School in Spanish Springs, admitted the situation is one no one enjoys dealing with, but said the district's effort has proved the inseparable nature of its internal community.

“We were all in shock, but the positive thing is that the WCSD staff has come together and supported Sparks Middle School very well,” Raymond said.

Information continues coming to light regarding the deadly shooting at Sparks Middle School that killed a math teacher and the student shooter. Raymond said as more facts are being revealed, the counseling departments at Shaw Middle School, and other WCSD schools, are working to ensure students and parents receive continual resources.

“The positive thing is we don’t just stop a couple days afterward,” Raymond said. “The Washoe County School District has a philosophy that we are all in this together and we are going to be supporting them for months on end with whatever they need. The whole school is definitely who we look at – parents, staff and students.”

Raymond said information was sent home to parents discussing the tragic events, some tips on speaking to their children and the plans for Shaw Middle School students to aid students and faculty at Sparks Middle School. Raymond said Enrichment periods this week will be used to make posters and personal notes for students and staff returning to Sparks Middle School next week.

“One of the things that has to be kept in mind is that everyone grieves differently and so many people need to get back to a routine right away, and some people need extra time to grieve and to process,” Raymond said. “I think we all need to process (the event) in certain ways, and that needs to be done and routine needs to be started. Grieving is different for everybody so you have to know what that person’s way of grieving is and be there any way you can.

“The district is doing a fabulous job in supporting the families and using their crisis plans and those kinds of things. I think understanding that there are many resources out there, like the Red Cross or private therapists, that can help people is important. People need to reach out and find those people who are there for them.”

Flora said handing her elementary school students comes very differently given their age difference. She said parental teamwork and involvement was crucial following Monday’s events.

“The parents trust us to let them be the parents,” Flora said. “We are very careful because our students are much younger than middle school or high school students. We wanted to make sure that parents could impart any information they wanted to in the way the way wanted to.

“I did not have a lot of questions yesterday, so it was really a matter of working with parents. Parents have great resources in the district. That really has to be up to the parents to decide anytime there is any kind of information or anything that happens in the country or in our state.”

Still, Flora said those students and faculty who were aware of the events and were simply seeking emotional support found plenty at Lincoln Park on Tuesday.

“I just know teachers, regardless of what is happening in the world or our own neck of the world, they love what they do and they are here for the kids. They are there for each other,” Flora said. “You can see in these times how much they really do care. You can see the strength of the community on display right now and it is in these hard times that we have to pull together to help each other through.”

Raymond agreed with Flora on the cohesiveness of the district’s staff and updates on counseling sessions will come through the WCSD website at www.washoe.nv.k12.us.

“We are all in it together,” Raymond said. "We are a big district, but when something like this happens, I don’t know if it seems like it is small, but it just seems that we are all in it together. If you say your are part of the school district, then we know we consider you family.”
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