Athlete Safety Initiatives, Status Reviewed by School Committee

LONGMEADOW – Spurred on by the death of Amherst-Pelham Regional High School junior Anna Burns during a cross-country meet in Ludlow in September, the Superintendent of Longmeadow Public Schools (LPS), Mr. Martin O’Shea, said the district will review its emergency response preparedness for sporting events.

O’Shea said he would meet with Police Chief Robert Stocks, Fire Chief John Dearborn and Longmeadow High School (LHS) Principal Thomas Landers to discuss the matter. The district is also exploring global safety training for athletes and, potentially, the student body.

School committee member Gianna Allentuck asked if LPS had considered working with the Timmy Strong Foundation. The organization, which provides communities and schools with CPR training and automated external defibrillators (AEDs), was created after East Longmeadow’s Birchland Park Middle School principal Timothy Allen survived a heart attack in July 2021. O’Shea said the district is still in the planning stages, but the foundation has expressed interest in helping with life safety training and has donated CPR manikins.

When School Committee Vice Chair Mary Keane asked if the district had AEDs, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Thomas Mazza said there were two at each cross-country meet and five others who rotated on sports teams as sports seasons changed. LHS Stadium, Russell Field and Bliss Tennis Courts each have one on site, he said, but they are removed during the winter to avoid the elements.

Statue

The district discussed whether to accept the gift of a statue of a runner to be placed in front of the cross country record board at the concession stand. O’Shea said it was given anonymously and was to be “a celebration of track and field and cross country athletes”. He said donors hoped it would be installed before the ground froze for the season.

Allentuck said she approves of the idea, but the provided rendering of the statue depicts “a vision” of a runner and is not representative of runners with different “hairstyles” and bodies. O’Shea noted that the statue is still in the design phase and feedback can be provided to donors and the artist.

Hensch responded to Allenuck’s concern, saying a statue can’t capture all the runners.

Connolly asked if the statue was meant to resemble Katarina Boskovic, an LHS junior who died in a car accident in May. Likewise, school committee member Jaime Hensch asked if it was a memorial. O’Shea said it was meant to be “timeless and festive”, but would give Boskovic’s loved ones a way to remember her.

Keane said his first impression was that it was a statue of Boskovic. She wondered at the athletics students and the Boskovic family: “Are they ready to have that there?” She continued, calling it “beautiful” but wanting to make sure it wasn’t “trigger”. Connolly accepted school committee member Julie Morgan’s suggestion to get the cross-country team’s opinion.

Zachary Verriden, member of the school committee, spoke. Echoing Allenuck’s concerns, he said it might “remember an archetype or body type that might be less inclusive for future generations,” however, the statue may hold significance for current students and families. He suggested “marrying the two” concepts.

The discussion is adjourned.

Excursion

The LHS Music Program has been approved for a school vacation excursion, April 17-23, 2023, to Southern California for tours, workshops, rehearsals and sightseeing. The trip is open to all lyric, wind ensemble and orchestra students and will be led by department and vocal music director Kayla Werlin and instrumental music director Arthur Thovmasian.

Student representative Daegon Connolly pointed out that music students haven’t been able to take field trips their entire high school careers. He also presented the trip as a chance to “grow” as musicians.

Keane asked about funding for the excursion. Although the trip was out of pocket, the superintendent said the cost could be supplemented by music department fundraising and donations received by the department for a scholarship.

Other topics

O’Shea said he was working with the city manager on the City’s Vulnerability Preparedness Grant. The city applied for the state program, which provides grants to cities and towns to identify infrastructure and circumstances susceptible to damage from weather-related issues, such as storms and drought. The city uses its long-term plan which has not yet been created to solve climate problems.

The superintendent called it a “significant” grant and said there were opportunities for students to get involved, including having two students sit on the city’s long-range plan steering committee.
O’Shea welcomed the District’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator for the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative (LPVEC), Abdullah Ghalayini. As members of LPVEC, LPS will work with Ghalayini on school district diversity and culture issues.

Wolf Swamp Road School has been approved for use for the Wolf Swamp Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk on October 26th. racing store that hosts races throughout the community.

While discussing his goals as superintendent for the 2022-2023 school year, O’Shea cited the accessibility of the website to people with disabilities and those for whom English is not their primary language. “We know we have work to do in this area,” O’Shea acknowledged.

The LHS Key Club is offering babysitting services for families attending the special town meeting on Oct. 25. Service will be at the Storrs Library and families must register in advance.