An advocate for school safety and security will share her story of an intensely personal tragedy during Williston Northampton School’s faculty orientation on September 3.
Michele Gay lost her daughter, Josephine Grace, during the Newtown, CT shooting in 2012. She later became one of the founders of “Safe and Sound: A Sandy Hook Initiative,” a nonpartisan group that works with communities and schools across the country to improve safety through discussion, collaboration, and shared resources.
“We all felt safe in our peaceful town and in our high ranking schools,” the group notes on its website. “We learned, too painfully, that we were not […] The measures, plans, and procedures we relied upon failed us, tragically.”
According to her biography, Ms. Gay’s experiences “have left her uniquely positioned to help school communities prevent tragedy, and better prepare and respond in the event of an emergency in their own schools.”
Ms. Gay has a BS in Elementary Education from Towson University and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from McDaniel College. She taught at the elementary level in Maryland and Virginia public schools before staying home to raise her three daughters.
Williston’s Director of Security Anne O’Connor said that Ms. Gay’s visit would help underline the importance of school safety and security in a very personalized way.
“Ms. Gay will give us a prospective that, thankfully, not too many people can,” Ms. O’Connor wrote in an email. “She will share with us her personal experience and how this experience has fueled her to be an active advocate for school safety.”
Easthampton Police Officer Alan Schadel, the school resource officer for the department, will also be on hand for the talk. Having heard Ms. Gay speak during previous conferences, he described her as an “amazing speaker” who was able to humanize what can often seem like a far-removed news story.
“[She] helps people realize, ‘I better be prepared because it could happen to me.’” Mr. Schadel said. “It gets people thinking about, ‘If I was in this situation, what would I do?’”