Elizabeth 'Betsey' Trombly had been a reading teacher at RMMS & CSDA, bringing her teaching talent, and sharing her joy of learning and books with countless Brookline students over the years. As can be said of educators, it is difficult (if not impossible) to determine when your influence on the lives of children begins, or ends. It is hard to say conclusively how many young people in our area grew to be happy, successful, and productive members of our community, in part because of Betsey Trombly's good intentions and strong abilities as a reading teacher.
Upon learning of Betsey's passing, our school and district administration worked to organize an plan for communication and response that would dignify Betsey, show respect for her family, and maintain an appropriate focus on learning at CSDA for students and staff.
Members of the CSDA Administrative Team reached out to their colleagues by phone on the evening of Tuesday, September 16th, to share the devastating news personally, and then invite CSDA staff members to join together before school the following morning to meet, process, and plan for a productive day with students on Wednesday (and all of the days to follow).
For the staff meeting on September 17th, we were joined by members of SAU-41 leadership team, SAU-41 school counselors, members of the state crisis response team, and recent CSDA retirees who knew Betsey well and are still closely connected to our school community (to include former school principal, Laurie Wenger). Mr. Andrew Corey, School Superintendent, addressed the CSDA staff, as did their principal, and the coordinator of the state crisis response team. Teachers and staff had the opportunity to connect, reflect, and process before and after the formalities of the meeting. Everyone put their best foot forward, and greeted our students as they entered the school for another day of joyful learning in our classrooms.
Early in the day on the 17th, we personally contacted the families of Betsey's current and recent students (current middle school students were contacted by friends on the HBMS administrative and counselling teams). Then we crafted a letter for all CSDA families to apprise them of Mrs. Trombly's passing and our approach to this tragedy -- we would continue to teach, teach, teach, and not address the matter with students (feeling this discussion would be best held at home with parents, as they saw fit). Here is an excerpt from the letter sent to families:
"I am contacting you to let you know that we have been informed that Elizabeth (Betsey) Trombly, a reading teacher at CSDA died suddenly. Although we do not know the circumstances of this death, authorities are continuing to investigate this matter. The school has the behavioral health response team in place today to help staff, parents and students deal with this tragedy. You will receive more information from the school as plans develop. We encourage you to share this information with your child, as appropriate, after school today. You can be assured that the school will be doing everything it can to help our community deal with this sudden loss. Our thoughts are with the family, friends and loved ones of Betsey during this difficult time. We are deeply saddened by her passing, and extend our deepest sympathy to all who knew her. If there is anything we can do for you or your children during this time please do not hesitate to contact us here at the Captain Samuel Douglass Academy."
Throughout the day, we were supported by SAU-41 district leaders and members of the state crisis response team, who met with individual staff members, and groups of staff members, as necessary. We met again that afternoon afternoon, as a full staff, to debrief and process the day's events. Teachers were concerned about the questions and emotions that students might bring to school on Thursday, as students and families would be apprised of Mrs. Trombly's passing by that time. Our school administration and the state crisis team leader addressed the group to offer guidance and support.
As we opened school on the morning of September 18th, and for each day to follow, we were greeted by the lovely faces and enthusiasm of our students as they arrived on campus. The day began and unfolded, just as the days before; focused on learning, focused on goodness, focused on all that is right in our world, our community, and our school. We are strong. We are resilient. We are CSDA.