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Hurricane Sandy — Pitching in, reaching out
Dealing with the trauma
UFT’s Election Day PD switches focus after storm
by Dorothy Callaci | November 22, 2012 New York Teacher issue
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the organizers of the UFT’s Election Day safety training quickly refocused the agenda to make it relevant to chapter leaders returning to schools after the storm.
Dr. David Schonfeld, the director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, who was originally scheduled to discuss how to respond to a death in a school community, instead spoke to chapter leaders about how to address the short- and long-term trauma from the natural disaster affecting both students and staff.
Schonfeld brought years of experience to the issue as a counselor following such tragedies as Hurricane Katrina, the Aurora theater shootings and 9/11.
Bundled against the cold at the UFT’s lower Manhattan headquarters, which the hurricane had left with no heat, some 120 chapter leaders — many of their colleagues scheduled to be there were either storm victims themselves or without the means of transportation to get to 52 Broadway — also learned what to look for in storm-damaged schools. UFT Safety and Health Director Chris Proctor warned of the possibility of illnesses related to mold caused by water damage and explained how to reach out for repairs.
David Kazansky, the coordinator of the daylong program and the UFT director of school safety, outlined the new citywide General Response Protocols for school evacuations, situations where students and staff must take shelter in their buildings, and building lockdowns.
Among the other UFT representatives on hand to answer questions and prepare chapter leaders for the issues that may arise in the weeks ahead were Lila Ezra, the director of Victim Support Counseling and the Member Assistance Program; Tina Puccio, the coordinator of the Member Assistance Program; and Amy Arundell, a special representative for human resource issues.
Chapter Leader Stuart Kaplan of the HS for Law and Public Service in Manhattan said that he found the training session “very empowering.”
“Today has given me ways to talk to students and teachers about the trauma we have all faced,” Kaplan said.