Resilience Corner


Back to School

Julie G. Haggard is the Newtown School District’s Director of Pupil Services.  Ms. Haggard has experience teaching across the K-12 continuum as well as in various administrative roles in the area of special education.  She holds a master’s degree in special education and bachelors degrees in both regular education and communication disorders from Southern Connecticut State University.

It is with sincere enthusiasm that we welcome our students, parents and community to the start of the 2013-2014 school year.   Throughout the summer Pupil Services has been busy at work preparing for the new school year including hiring a multitude of talented and qualified new members for our school community.  We are now nearly complete in hiring several new administrators, teachers, specialists and mental health support staff and we are grateful that 12 of these now hired positions have been made possible through the SERV Grant (School Emergency Response to Violence Grant).  The positions added to our schools through the SERV Grant are critical and will further strengthen school-based support teams and bolster pupil services making it possible to support the needs of our students and families as we move toward our continued recovery.

Fostering resilience, support and recovery, each school-based pupil services team is composed of school counselors, school psychologists, social workers and agency-based clinical providers.  All are available in each school and will provide a customized, confidential approach to address any concern or need our students and families may have.  We encourage you to reach out via the appropriate school principal or by contacting anyone from the school-based team.  As always you may contact my office directly if you need assistance or aren’t sure where to go for help.

Finally, we continue to update the Newtown School District’s Homepage including new information regarding counseling services and various other helpful resources from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN).

As always, our students and families are our first priorities.  With best wishes for a happy and healthy upcoming school year!

Ms. Haggard can be reached at 203-426-7626.



Gifts, Gratitude & Growth

Dr. John Woodall is a Board Certified Psychiatrist formerly of the faculty of Harvard Medical School and the Founder and Director of the Unity Project, a resilience learning system that was developed to promote resilient strengths in youth.

The Unity Project was conceived after Dr.Woodall led an in-country USAID funded trauma response program for the former Yugoslavia through the Harvard School of Public Health. It was refined in partnership with the Department of Youth and Community Development of the City of New York after 9/11 to develop resilience building programming for children across the city. Dr. Woodall has lectured, consulted and developed programs on resilient responses to crisis, human rights, conflict resolution and inter-ethnic dialogue across the US, in Central America, Canada, the Balkans, Cyprus, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Newtown was the recipient of the outpouring of loving support from thousands around the country and the world.  This piece, written by Dr. Woodall, appeared in the Newtown Bee as a way to say, thank you!

Here is the link: Gifts, Gratitude and Growth

“I wanted to offer my thoughts to the community, not in my role as a member of the Distribution Committee for the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Fund, but as a neighbor and friend.  We will be crossing some significant milestones in the days and weeks ahead in closing the first important phase of that Fund.  This offers us a time to reflect on what this fund is.

What strikes me most is that this fund is a gift.  It is not a federal entitlement enacted by statute.  It is not an insurance policy recipients have paid into.  It is a wonderful gift offered through the love and kindness of many thousands of young children who gathered their pennies as they cried for our terrible loss, teens who washed cars and held fund drives, of parents, whether they acted from their homes or their corporate and foundation board rooms, who felt some of the heartbreak of our parents here and reached out to say that their hearts broke too.  They wanted to say that they are with us, to do something to be of help.

It is important to not lose sight of this healing fact: this fund is a gift of love from many people.   Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the work on the committee has been the sordid and impossible task of trying to assign a dollar amount to people’s anguish.  It is impossible to do in any satisfactory way.  The stark reality is that there is no such thing as a compensation for these terrible losses and the ongoing consequences to the families and the whole community.  To hold on to the notion that these funds could somehow substitute for these bitter losses is tragic folly.  We all see that.

There is a touching and tender mercy in knowing that this fund is actually a gift.  It being a gift offers us an opportunity for growth that a government entitlement or an insurance policy wouldn’t.  Knowing it is a gift of loving generosity, it can be received with loving gratitude.  In that view, it offers a comforting balm and an opportunity to unite us in compassion.  This gift of love ties us to a community of caring friends across the country and the world.  When viewed as an entitlement, which it is not, or an insurance claim, which it is not, the seeds of bitterness are sown as these funds can never satisfy as a compensation for the losses that were and are still being sustained here.   But, a gift of love can be healing.

With that in mind, we acknowledge with heartfelt loving gratitude this gift that is an expression of the loving generosity of so many.  We humbly acknowledge that this gift carries with it a moral obligation to keep alive the spirit of loving kindness that created it.  And there is plenty to be proud of in this regard.

A very special thing is happening in our town.  All of those who have so generously given of themselves for our benefit can feel a part of a wonderful process stirring here.  They will find a town that has sustained a tremendous and very cruel blow.  From the families who lost precious loved ones in an unspeakable way, to the teachers and students who witnessed the horrors of that day, the first responders and in expanding circles reaching out to the whole community, they will find here a people who have committed themselves to the best of our humanity.  They will find a community that rejects being assigned the role of victim or survivor or casualty.  Instead, they will find a community that has grown closer through heartbreak.  And from that very heartbreak, we have become a community that has committed itself to becoming a role model of compassion, resilience and service to others.  In ways we never expected, we have become a community that shines a light of hope and renewal in a dark time.