Message from Superintendent Gdowski regarding recent tragedy

Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - 3:15pm
Superintendent Message

We are all affected, supporting one another is critical

Dear Five Star Community,

As a parent first and foremost, I, like all of you, have struggled with a range of reactions over the past 24 hours - from sadness, to anger, to the need to support my children in processing the unexplainable.

Many in the Five Star community know someone, either a staff member or student, who is a part of the STEM School Highlands Ranch community. Our thoughts are with those impacted by this tragedy. As parents and staff members who pour ourselves into the lives of our children on a daily basis, these senseless acts of violence affect us deeply. No matter where we live and where our children attend school, we are hurting as a local community, state and nation.

What bridges us together is that we all share a common interest - the safety and well-being of each and every one of our children. Like you, I wish I had the answer to stop this cycle of violence. Unfortunately, I don’t. I do know that each of us play an important role in providing for our children’s safety and well-being. As adults, our children are looking to all of us to come together, regardless of our different backgrounds and perspectives, and collectively own this problem and work together to address it. Our children deserve nothing less of us.

Most immediately, supporting one another is critical. As parents, you are the first and very best support system for your child. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to have a discussion with your child and acknowledge any feelings that may surface. You know your child best and can provide the appropriate explanation that fits with your family’s values and beliefs. As you know, we have resources on the district website to support these conversations.

As a school district, we recognize our role has changed over the years. It’s been a long time since we were able to solely focus on a student’s academic needs. Our staff work hard day-in and day-out to support the physical, social and emotional well-being of our students, staff and families. Every school in the Five Star District has counselors, social workers and school psychologists who are highly-trained in supporting students. Additionally, our schools practice safety procedures throughout the school year and our staff makes security awareness a daily priority. Challenges we face in school security continue to evolve and we are proactively adding more staff, safety features and programs to ensure all of our students continue to learn and grow in a safe environment. We are building secure vestibules at all school entrances, adding electronic card readers at high school doors and increasing mental health staff to further support the social and emotional well-being of all of our students.

When I reflect on what we’ve done and what we are working toward, I wholeheartedly acknowledge that not one of these things is going to be the end-all, be-all solution to this nationwide problem. What I do know is through strong partnerships with our families and community we need to come together to support our kids and change the narrative.  

Children take their lead from adults on how to react and respond to tragedy, so make sure to take care of yourself too and assess your own response to this tragedy. Keep an eye on one another — your children, colleagues, friends and family — as reactions change throughout the day and for days to come. Reassuring our children is an important step of recovery and we are here to work alongside our families to provide that support.

With much gratitude and respect,

Chris Gdowski