In an effort to enhance, streamline, and further professionalize the role and practices of school monitors, the Department of Education hosted the first School Monitor Professional Development Retreat, June 6-8, at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Albert A. Sheen Campus Great Hall on St. Croix. The event is expected to be held annually.
The three-day, in-person gathering brought together 85 school monitors from across the St. Croix and St. Thomas-St. John districts with representatives from VITEMA, V.I. Bureau of Corrections, LSU, V.I. EMS, Department of Health, and other entities for hands-on training and workshops on mass violence and active threats, self-defense, CPR/First Aid, social-emotional wellness, de-escalation techniques, incident report writing, and the rollout of a new evaluation system.
In a written statement to attendees, Assistant Education Commissioner Victor Somme III, whose office organized the event in conjunction with the Department’s Division of Disaster Planning and School Security, said, “Post COVID-19, school security has become more important than ever before. Today, school security goes beyond sheltering students from violence, bullying and protection from harmful elements, such as drugs, guns, and gang activity. Therefore, it is critically important that you receive professional development and training for standardization and consistency across schools and districts, improve and increase your knowledge of school safety and security measures, and learn and apply best practices.”
Education Commissioner Dr. Dionne Wells-Hedrington, in remarks to the group about the importance of fostering good working relationships and building trust, said, “I could relate to anyone. It’s about building relationships. When it comes to you, I don’t just see people, I see destiny, I see gifts, I see potential. I see beyond just the physical person.”
She continued, “We are really here to support the work that you do, because it’s not easy. But times are changing, and we have to make sure that our people are prepared and that they are safe and have what they need to get their jobs done.
“You have my commitment, and we are moving things forward, slowly but surely. You are a priority for me,” she concluded.
St. Croix Educational Complex High School Monitor Winston Marcus, who has worked in the profession for eight years, said the training was a refresher for him.
“This training comes as a refresher course for me, as many of us have had this training before, but it’s always good to have a refresher,” he said. “I learned some new things they are trying to implement, and I would like to see those things happen. I think it’s a good thing that monitors from St. Croix and St. Thomas are in the same building and are learning the same things at the same time.”
Kenya Blyden-Selwood, who has worked as a school monitor for 17-1/2 years and is stationed at Joseph Gomez Elementary School, said the training was beneficial to keep monitors abreast of the latest in responding to various campus security threats.
“For this retreat training, I hope to gain more knowledge in areas of active threat shooting,” she said. “So far, we have taken up that we need to continue with the training because as we progress and move along, there will be new processes and changes, and more training will be necessary.”
Blyden-Selwood also enjoyed the opportunity to interact with her peers from St. Croix.
“It was a great experience to meet all the other monitors from St. Croix and we came together as one family,” she said. “As we leave from here, we hope it continues where we interact more, bring ideas to the table, and learn more from one another.”
The retreat, which will be hosted in the St. Thomas-St. John District next summer, culminated with a banquet to recognize monitors for their dedication to their profession.