Hard Monday at Shaw school after principal's killing
My colleague Michael Birnbaum reports:
Until last week, Shaw Middle School students were greeted every morning by their principal, Brian Betts, who would stand at the corner of 10th and V streets NW, his school at his back, hugging students as they arrived for class and catching up with their parents.
Monday was the first day back in class since Betts was discovered fatally shot in his Silver Spring home Thursday night. Hugs were still exchanged at the corner, but this time it was between crying teachers and students.
Now the school must figure out how to carry on.
An English teacher who got her first teaching job from Betts, Meredith Leonard, said she couldn't imagine the school without him.
"But being around the kids makes it easier," she said. "He would have wanted us to keep moving. It'll be okay."
The school planned to have a 45-minute staff and student meeting Monday morning where grief counselors will be available and everyone will talk about the tragedy. Grief counselors will also be in classrooms throughout the day, and there will be designated rooms around the school where both students and staff can grieve in private.
This week was supposed to be given over to DC-CAS testing, and Betts in his final days at the school was leading a major push to prepare for the exams. But now, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has rescheduled them for a later date.
The front of the school has become a makeshift memorial, with roses, notes and candles on the stairs up to the main entrance and chalk inscriptions covering the sidewalks and doors.
"We Love You Mr. Betts It's Not the Same With Out You," was written on the door in pink.
On the sidewalk on the way from the U St. Metro station was written, "Shaw Students: Keep Ya Heads Up."
Students and staff embraced on their way in; several staff members appeared to have been crying as they made their way past the large group of TV vans and cameras assembled in front of the school.
"He was something like a father to me," said Daamontae Brown, one of about 100 ninth graders who liked their school so much that they petitioned Betts and Rhee to allow them to spend their first year of high school. "He helped me when I needed help," Brown said, but the school will "keep moving forward."
A door at the middle school. (Gerald Martineau/Post)
Post-it notes express mourning for Betts. (Gerald Martineau/Post)
Words of support for faculty members written with chalk on the sidewalk. (Gerald Martineau/Post)
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April 19, 2010; 10:33 AM ET
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