A Letter of Thanks
In 2018, I didn’t know how to spell the word barricade. Angry and scared over the devastation after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, I shot off emails to our local school officials. And I spelled barricade wrong for about two weeks.
Over the last two years, I have written the word “barricade” thousands of times as myself and board members Marti Milliken Dixon and Stefani Williams worked to raise the funds to purchase and install 251 Anchor door barricades for Geneva schools. I’ll never spell it wrong again.
It is with the deepest heartfelt gratitude – and exuberant joy – that we can say “WE DID IT.” On December 23, 2019, workers from Marous Brothers Construction began the installation of 251 Anchor lockdown door barricades in our school district. The Anchors are installed in every building – every classroom – to protect every student and every teacher in our district.
The installation fulfilled a promise we made to our children and our community just shy of two years ago, and I feel like a weight has been lifted off my soul. For me, this goal has felt like a race against time, and for a long time it felt like I was losing the race.
There were a lot of opinions around this effort – some strongly for and some strongly against. I want to thank everyone who wrote a check, pressed money into my hand when they saw me at the grocery store or around town; for the business owners who not only wrote checks but also helped us with fundraisers and gave us space for parent meetings.
Thank you to all the parents and grandparents and teachers and administrators who felt the weight of this problem – and the weight of the solution – along with me. Thank you to the people who asked questions – even the people who doubted the decisions and the process – I truly learned as I went.
In August 2019, I was frustrated. The project felt never ending. The burden felt too heavy to continue. As we approached our programming for National Bullying Prevention Month in October, we felt that maybe the students would like to participate in the fundraising effort. So, we gave them bottles and asked for their loose change. And something big happened.
I am BEYOND proud to tell you that our last fundraising effort – the effort that brought the barricades to our schools – was brought to our district by the students themselves. In October, each elementary school class raised money towards the purchase of their lockdown barricade. The results were extraordinary. The three schools – Cork, GPS and Austinburg, raised a collective $2,800, with students in Kindergarten through fifth grade taking action where others would not, working together to make our district safer for everyone. To me, that speaks VOLUMES to the culture of safety, inclusion, security and kindness that we strive for at Geneva Schools. It also speaks to the fear some students feel going into school when they feel threatened. Counting their change was a humbling experience for me, knowing they raided piggy banks and gave up allowance money for lockdown barricades.
But we certainly didn’t buy 251 barricades with pennies alone.
I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the Geneva Fraternal Order of Eagles and the FOE auxiliary for their significant partnerships in this project. Early on, St. John’s Lutheran Church and school board member Richard Dana donated to this cause, and more recently we received funds from the Scott Bader Company, the Anita Obhof Foundation, and the Alfred M. Ford Charitable Trust, and Geneva Major True Value.
A big, big, big thank you to every parent and grandparent who sent in money. I know how you feel – the threat of violence at school weighs heavy on our hearts, even as we watch with pride as our student Eagles achieve and learn and grow.
One rainy morning, a got a call from Scott Marous from Marous Brothers Construction. He told me his daughters attend school in the district and he wanted to donate half of the installation for the barricades – for the entire district. And just like that, everything became possible. Just like that, we weren’t waiting for spring break or summer break – our students would go back to school in January 2020 with the barricades installed. I sat in Scribbler’s Coffee shop and I cried big tears of relief and amazement. To the Marous family, I can’t thank you enough.
And finally, a thank you to the Geneva Board of Education, all the building principals, and superintendent Eric Kujala. Their support and encouragement for the door barricades has been both wide and deep. It is appreciated more than they know.
What’s next? We aren’t done with our mission - which is to make Geneva schools kinder and safer for every student. Bullying is still a very real problem. Our student population is diverse, and inclusion for every child is important to keeping Geneva a progressive, inviting place to raise children. School safety is like chasing a shadow – the threat not only grows, it changes. We are here to help our schools address and adapt to those changes.
Thank you, Geneva. Thank you for filling this need, lifting this weight, believing in the importance of this project, and for making the safety of our children and their teachers and school staff a priority. The difference you make individually shines on our community, and Geneva certainly shines.