Monday Notes from the Head of School, 2/26

"The best way to solve problems and to fight against war is through dialogue." - Malala Yousafzai

Dear Palm Valley Families,

Welcome back from February break. Much has happened in the last two weeks. First I want to congratulate our Mock Trial team who had a stellar season earning several awards! In addition to receiving 12 gavels this season for their work, Saturday they brought home three individual medals: Lawrence Nelson, Bronze for Outstanding Court Clerk, Shelby Armor, Bronze for Outstanding Witness (Detective), and Hannah Makkai, Gold for Outstanding Witness (Medical Expert). Hannah is also the #1 winner in her category for Riverside County! Congratulations to these incredible students on achieving excellence in this way - you make us very proud! I'd also like to thank Ms. Steinman for serving as their Coach and Advisor this year. The time and effort that these students and Ms. Steinman put in is evident in the results. Great work!

Palm Valley School also hosted 210 educators over the break, coming from 30 different states and four other countries, including Canada, Mexico, the UK, and South Korea to attend the second Palm Valley PBL Institute with the Buck Institute for Education. Palm Valley School is leading this national effort to change the "traditional" classroom to make it the truly more authentic, real-world, hands-on learning that colleges and universities seek and that the job market values. I want to especially thank the efforts of Mr. Gaines, Mrs. Wiseley, Mr. Hewitt, Ms. Fisher, Ms. Romo and others who helped to plan and execute this event that hosted so many people over three days.

Many of you reached out to me following the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that took place in Parkland, Florida the week before break and have continued to call and email in the days since. Obviously, the safety and security of all the children who attend Palm Valley School is of the utmost importance to us, and it is perfectly understandable that an event like this forces us to take a pause and ask about what's being done. I want to thank each of you for reaching out, as I do believe that a healthy partnership between families and schools is how we best serve students and keep them safe. I also want to reassure you that while our safety measures on campus are not always immediately visible to parents, we are constantly striving to improve our infrastructures, policies, staff training, and protocols in the event of intruders - the same way that we do for fire, earthquake, and other natural disasters. Many improvements have been put in place this past year already and several others are slated to be installed this spring.

Here are some things that you should know are in the works and that you can do today to stay informed about school safety at Palm Valley.

  • In the event of any safety/security drills or events, we will issue several communications to families. The most effective and fastest way is to sign up for SMS text notifications to our @PVSEmergency Twitter account. You can subscribe to this system now by sending a text message to the number 40404 that says: Follow @pvsemergency (please note that this is NOT our main Twitter account, but a special Twitter feed for emergencies only).
  • Increased protocols for locked doors on campus and more supervision provided by staff at all times of the day.
  • Increased monitoring of protocols for visitor sign-ins on campus, supervision and single point of entry to many areas on campus.
  • We are looking into a Campus-Wide alert/paging system to be installed in the event of an intruder on campus.
  • We have increased our cameras on campus, and have improved our alarm monitoring system that has now been fully inspected and upgraded through COMTRON security monitoring.
  • Faculty training and drills practiced for intruders, along with Fire and Earthquake events.
  • The purchase and installation of add-on Nightlocks for doors on campus that need reinforcing in the event of a campus intruder.
  • In addition to the fence that was put up outside the Middle School last summer - other infrastructure changes are in the works and will be announced soon.

While this is neither an exhaustive list, nor is our search for campus safety improvements ever complete, this gives you an idea of the kinds of things that we are and have been doing behind the scenes to ensure best practices in student safety on campus. While we will continue to implement and search for safety and security improvements on campus, I feel it's also critical that we be cognizant that the solution to the epidemic of school shootings is not a simple one. The physical safety of students is just one facet. We have a responsibility to our students to also provide for them a place where they feel safe to express feelings and to have relationships with trusted adults where they can communicate about their anger or frustrations in positive and healthy ways. We work very hard to ensure that every student on this campus is known fully and has someone that they can go to if the need arises, but also that our Faculty and Staff know our students in a way that provides us insights into changes in their demeanor and behaviors. Following the Florida shooting, we know that the youth involved there and around the country are passionate about changes and self-expression of their anger and sadness and are choosing to express this through a series of walk-outs and marches. We at Palm Valley want to support our students (in developmentally appropriate ways) in expressing these feelings. For our younger students, this may just be a listening ear and facilitated conversations in line with the NAIS recommendations for helping young students to process tragic events. With our older students in Middle and Upper School, we will be engaging in conversations about how to best support them in safely embracing and engaging in civic participation appropriately. Our hearts and thoughts are with those who lost their lives, loved ones or were affected by this and other senseless tragedies in our nation's schools.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me about safety and security issues or any aspect of your children's success and growth at Palm Valley School. I am always happy to hear from you and value your opinion and voice in the home/school partnership as we look together towards our continued commitment to student success, safety, and growth.

Very best,

Susan Rice
Head of School

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Today is the final day to bid on our Online Auction, please take a last look at the wonderful items at pvs.org/auction and please also consider forwarding on to others. If you would like to sign up for the Annual Poker Night, you can do so here.