Dear Colleagues,

It was only a few days ago that I had the opportunity to speak before you about our district’s accomplishments and so many things we are proud of within our community. No one could have ever imagined the tragic news that would unfold shortly thereafter.

Our mission statement keeps us centered on our ultimate goal as a continuously evolving school district:

The mission of the Verona Public Schools, the center of an engaged and supportive community, is to empower students to achieve their potential as active learners and productive citizens through rigorous curricula and meaningful, enriching experiences.

Our focus is to provide a highly engaging and supportive learning environment so children may achieve their individual potential. Abraham Maslow coined the term self-actualization, or achieving one’s full potential. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides us with his theory on psychological health founded on basic human needs, such as safety and the physiological. Of significance, Maslow also identifies a sense of belongingness through positive relationships and esteem. Maslow’s theory provides insight into what learners actually need before one’s individual potential can ever be achieved.

Verona is a very special place, and because of that, I know I speak on behalf of all of us when I say that we want our students to be successful, but more importantly, we want them to come to school happy, healthy, and ready to learn. This is not simple to attain and requires a concerted effort. The sudden loss our community has experienced will undoubtedly have an impact on Verona, and on the people in our town, especially our students. Perhaps it will be obvious to us when we see some of our students affected by this tragic event in the coming days. In many instances, it is likely that such loss will not manifest itself into noticeable behaviors in students affected by grief or emotional stress.

There is no summer assignment or test more important right now than how we handle our students. Our schools have their own emotional heartbeat that fluctuates with circumstances we are inevitably dealt. In the coming days, it will be even more important for each of you to take the pulse of your classrooms while we collectively do the same with all of our schools, to insure our students are happy and healthy, as we strive to support each child achieve their full potential.

We have procedures in place in our schools to coordinate communication, professional counseling services to assist children and their families, and access to community resources that will help us facilitate strengthening the mental and emotional health of our children. Your principal will be providing guidance on how to navigate any concerns that may arise. I trust that you will continue to be the eyes and ears in our schools.

In the next week, the next month, or the next year, when we see a student is experiencing adversity, let a counselor and administrator know so we can help. It will be critical, in our perpetual vigilance, that you also let your fellow teachers know how our kids are doing so may develop a common understanding of the challenges our children face and how we may help them overcome.

As the school year begins, continue to take steps to build trust and meaningful relationships with your students and between your students in your classroom. Teach from the heart. As teachers, our students spend more time with you than any other adult throughout the course of their entire day. You are our children’s role models and they will be watching how we react. Please be mindful of the incredible impact you have on the lives of our youth.

We are incredibly saddened by this tragic loss, but we will not allow this loss to define any one person or our community. We must continue to work together in sustaining positive, healthy, safe, supported, engaged, and challenging school environments. As teachers we have an incredible gift to share in our children overcoming adversity. We are a highly engaged and supportive community. We make a difference in the lives of our students. Let us lead together in a manner that will strengthen our community during this difficult time.

With deepest sincerity,


Rui Dionisio
Superintendent of Schools