Haddonfield school district crisis team lays out goals for year

Laying out goals for the coming year, both Haddonfield Memorial High School Dean of Students Tracy Matozzo and nurse Sharon Garnier presented to the board of education updates on the district-wide crisis team at the Sept. 17 board of education meeting.

The presentation mainly served as an update for the board on how the team has progressed after its inception last year by Garnier.

“She really took the initiative on this,” Matozzo said in regard to Garnier’s persistence on the initiative. “She is most passionate about this. She took the lead in providing resources.”

Matozzo explained that Garnier initially approached high school principal Charles Klaus, who then arranged the opportunity for Garnier to go before the board with the initiative. She also added that the initiative has received a tremendous amount of support from the board and superintendent Dr. Richard Perry and assistant superintendent Michael Wilson, both of whom expressed their appreciation for Matozzo and Garnier for their time.

The district-wide crisis team mainly focuses on preparing for man-made crises and natural crises and dealing with the aftermath on both a physical and psychological level.

With meetings starting in June and lasting through September, the team currently consists of one representative from each school, Matozzo and Garnier. Matozzo explained that the team will soon be attending the first set of professional development courses, which consist of free six-hour psychological first-aid training.

In addition, the team will also be attending training on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at Rutgers in Piscataway.

Matozzo said by the end of the year, the goal is to have the team practicing “what if” scenarios. In addition, she said the team would also be going forward with communicating with administrators from each school, as well as looking for more recruits.

“We have had an overwhelming response from the staff,” Matozzo said as she explained that the team started early last year making the staff aware of what the team hoped to accomplish.

Most importantly, the team focuses on spreading information throughout the school about protocols for different emergency situations and also resources that are available in case of an emergency. She added that the teams helps faculty answer the “what if ” questions.

“This is a district-wide initiative with the support of the district and a comprehensive initiative for those in order to deal with crisis,” Matozzo said.

Working in Haddonfield for two years, Matozzo said Hurricane Sandy spurred the initiative. With damage minimal in Haddonfield, she said she wonders what would have happened if Haddonfield would have sustained the same damage felt in many towns in North Jersey.

“It got us thinking about what if something happened to devastate the community,” Matozzo said.

She also stated that recent events, such as the school shooting in Sandy Hook and the recent passing of a staff member in the Haddonfield Middle School, only added to concerns about having resources in place for the faculty to rely on in a worst-case scenario.

In addition to staying current with government organizations, such as FEMA, Matozzo said that the team is also in constant communication with the borough.

“The district and borough are working together, and that’s really important,” Matozzo said.