WEST LIBERTY – Mr. Andy McGill, West Liberty-Salem Middle School principal, was a featured speaker at the Ohio School Safety Center Conference this month on behalf of The Principal Recovery Network. The Conference was a collaborative effort between the United States Department of Homeland Security, The Principal’s Recovery Network, the Ohio School Safety Center, and Southern State Community College to answer an overwhelming request for more training regarding active school shooter incidents.
The conference was a free, one-day event for school safety stakeholder practitioners in Ohio. Mr. McGill briefly shared our own experience with school related gun violence but spent much of his time with first responders, school administrators, and mental health providers discussing the timeline after gun violence incidents and what recovery looks like for students, staff, and the community.
Mr. McGill and Mr. Greg Johnson, high school principal, are among a group of principals that founded The NASSP Principal Recovery Network. The network consists of principals who experienced gun violence in their schools and includes leaders from Columbine, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Sandy Hook, and other small schools like WL-S that are less well known. From the first meeting, it was apparent that regardless of the number of injuries or fatalities, there are common challenges that a school faces in the days, weeks, months, and years following the incident. And, while school administrators do their best to lead the school through the recovery process, much of it is through trial and error.
As the network decided who and what they were going to be, those common challenges led to their purpose. They wanted to be a response group reaching out to any principal who experiences a school shooting with an offer to help in any way they can during any phase of recovery. Most importantly, they wanted to establish a proactive approach to gun violence by advocacy with elected officials, at all levels of government, by leveraging for greater mental health supports in school, the presence of resource officers, safety features and actions.
As a network they decided that one collective document of consolidated experiences, offered as a written resource for school leaders, would be the best tool to help every leader in the nation navigate the recovery process of such incidents. Thus, The Principals Recovery Network’s Guide to Recovery was released in August of 2022.
Both Mr. McGill and Mr. Johnson traveled to Colorado for the official release of The Guide to Recovery at Columbine High School this summer. Mr. Johnson shared that, “In the years since our shooting I have heard many discussions related to Post Traumatic Stress, and I know I still struggle with where we are on the path to recovery. But, I have also read about Post Traumatic Stress Growth.” He went on to say that “this is the idea that an individual or group can go on to experience growth after a traumatic event. It is like the idea that something good can come from something bad.”
It is because of their shared knowledge, experience, and expertise that Mr. McGill was selected to speak on behalf of the Network. Mr. McGill shared, “The people in The PRN bring a unique perspective on education in that they have all experienced tragedy of some kind that has caused their students, staff, and communities to be hurt, and with knowledge gained on the road to recovery many lessons were learned. Personally, these are people that I have seen face to face maybe once or twice in the span of three years, yet their impact on my personal recovery is some of the deepest.” In his time at the conference, McGill shared how those relationships impact recovery for schools affected by gun violence, answered questions related to varying instances of school trauma, and guided conversation about the importance of advocacy with government officials for supportive measures on school campuses.
For more information about The Principal Recovery Network and The Guide to Recovery, visit https://www.nassp.org/community/principal-recovery-network/ and https://nassp.org/PRN.
Info from WL-S