This much is clear: the teachers and staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School reacted with astonishing courage to the unthinkable, the terrifying intrusion of a man intent on murdering them and their students. With no thought of their own safety, they defended their children..
Everyone of them is a hero, those who died and those who survived.
Six of them died protecting the children.
We don’t know the names of the survivors, but we know who made the ultimate sacrifice. For their courage and selflessness, they are heroes of American education.
The principal, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 52, ran towards the intruder to try to stop him. They both were killed.
The killer went in search of defenseless babies and teachers. The teachers heard the gunfire, tried to hide their children, hid them in closets and cabinets.
Vicki Soto, 27, put herself between the killer and her children. He killed her. Somehow some of them escaped. Six ran to a nearby house. They told the surprised homeowner,, “We can’t go back to our school. Our teacher is dead. We don’t have a teacher.”
Anne Marie Murphy, 52, was a special education teacher who was devoted to the children she taught. When her body was found, little Dylan Hockley was in her arms.
Rachel D’Avino was a new teacher, who was getting her doctorate in special education. She was a behavioral analyst. Her boyfriend planned to ask her to marry him during the Christmas holiday. Like the other teachers, she died shielding students.
Lauren Rousseau, 30, had joined the faculty in November. She was thrilled. All her life, her mother later said, she wanted to be a teacher.
Every one of the teachers was a career educator. Every one was doing exactly what she wanted to do. They’ve worked in a school that was not obsessed with testing but with the needs of children. This we know: the staff at Sandy Hook loved their students. They put their students first, even before their own lives.
Oh, and one other thing, all these dedicated teachers belonged to a union. The senior teachers had tenure, despite the fact that “reformers” (led by ConnCAN, StudentsFirst, and hedge fund managers) did their best last spring to diminish their tenure and to tie their evaluations to test scores. Governor Malloy said, memorably, to his shame, that teachers get tenure just for showing up. No one at Sandy Hook was just “showing up.”
Governor Dannell Malloy has led the effort in his state to expand charter schools and high-stakes testing. He appointed a state commissioner of education who co-founded a charter chain. He said, memorably, that he didn’t care how much test prep there was so long as scores go up. Sandy Hook is not that kind of school.
Let us hope Governor Malloy learned something these past few days about the role of public schools in their communities.
Newtown does not need a charter school. What it needs now is healing. Not competition, not division, but a community coming together to help one another. Together. Not competing.