Strawtown Parents Want Better Communication

Most of the discussion at Strawtown Elementary School’s Parents Tea concentrated on communication about a student’s MRSA infection.


Clarkstown School District Health Coordinator Susan Sherlock said most of conversation at Thursday morning’s Parents’ Tea at Strawtown Elementary School dealt with a student's recent MRSA infection.  The parents of a student at the school notified the district last Thursday that their child had an MRSA infection.  The district responded by disinfecting common areas of the school and the student’s classroom on Thursday and followed that with a “top to bottom” cleaning of the entire school over the weekend.

Sherlock said the approximately 40 parents at the program said they wanted to know more.

“They wanted better communication from us,” said Sherlock, who attended the approximately hour-long meeting with Superintendent Dr. J. Thomas Morton and Building & Grounds Central Administrator Anthony Valenti.

She said parents appeared satisfied that district took the appropriate steps by its disinfection of the building. But they wanted additional information and follow-up communication to the email sent out last Thursday.

“There were some concerns that some people felt they didn’t get the email,” explained Sherlock.

Sherlock said the district emailed a second letter this morning and expected Principal Deidra O’Connor to send out a letter and MRSA fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention today by email and probably as printed copies. 

Dr. Morton said the district followed the recommendations of the New York State Health Department, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Rockland BOCES Health & Safety Department for dealing with MRSA when it disinfected the building.

According to the CDC, MRSA or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is a type of staph bacteria. The CDC website states, “In the community, most MRSA infections are skin infections.”  

Sherlock reiterated the superintendent’s statement that the district felt it was an isolated case and that the infection was not acquired in the Strawtown building. She said the district’s health staff would be vigilant and check any suspicious rashes and report them to the child’s family and recommend they take the child to their pediatrician.

“The safety of the children is the bottom line for us,” Sherlock said.

This is a copy of the letter sent to Strawtown parents on Thursday, Oct. 18.

Dear Parents/Guardians:

I wanted to follow-up with you regarding my letter dated October 11,2012.  As stated in that letter, a Strawtown Elementary student was diagnosed with a skin infection known as MRSA.  This infection was isolated to only that one student and most likely was neither acquired in Strawtown, or did the student contaminate any surfaces in the school building.

As a precaution, surfaces with which the student was known to have had contact were cleaned and sanitized as per New York State Department of Health guidelines.  In addition, any surfaces with which the student “might” have come in contact were cleaned and sanitized as well.  Our cleaning and sanitizing procedures were reviewed with Rockland BOCES, our health and safety authority and the Rockland County Department of Health.

I feel confident that we have addressed this problem in the appropriate manner.  However I still advise you to observe your children for any signs of a skin infection and seek the advice of your health care provider as needed. 

Please remind your children to wash their hands with soap and water when indicated, especially before eating, after using the bathroom and when they are dirty.  Hand hygiene is the single most important factor in preventing the spread of all infections.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. 

Susan J. Sherlock
Coordinator of Health Services
Clarkstown Central School District
845-639-8068 fax

777switch October 19, 2012 at 03:35 PM
This issue would never have become an issue, had the information been sent home with the students FROM OUR BUILDING ADMINISTRATOR, insuring us that the building was safe. An email sent at 9:00pm on a Thursday night from the CCSD Dir. of Health Services only creates panic and does not allow parents the time to ask the questions they need answered before making the decision to send their children to school on Friday morning. Parents received NO COMMUNICATION AT ALL from the building administrator until yesterday afternoon, 10/18- an entire week after the email from the school district. Also, you cannot state that a building is safe and then continue to sanitize throughout the day on Friday while children are in school, on Saturday and even the following Monday afternoon. If anything needed sanitizing, it should have been done before the school opened on Friday.
777switch October 19, 2012 at 03:36 PM
While it was encouraging to have the Superintendent, Dir. of Health Services and Buildings and Grounds at our Meeting about the gross mishandling by the CCSD of the MRSA notification, most questions remain UNANSWERED. Why was the notification not handled the same as other health notifications (in backpacks from our principal)? Was the student ever even in the building since being infected? (if so, then what a waste of time and energy!) Was the student on a school bus while infected? (we were told by CCSD they weren't concerned about the bus, but would not state if the child was on the bus) Why was building being sanitized during the day while school was in session? (This was brushed off as inaccurate information) These are some of the questions that Strawtown Parents continue to ask.
StrawtownParent October 19, 2012 at 07:38 PM
The CCSD administration failed us by demonstrating a total break down in communication between administration and parents. Sue Sherlock was defensive and hid behind HIPAA privacy laws, therefore we were unable to get answers to many of our questions. Interestingly enough, she referred to the individual as a "she" which I'm pretty sure was in violation of HIPAA laws . She admittedly took a "minimalistic" approach to the communications and sharing of information. Superintendent Morton said there was no protocol in place, which I can't understand since MRSA was found in Felix Festa and West Nyack Elem. in 2007 and notification was made via automated voice-mail messages, e-mails and a letter posted on the district's Web site. Dr. Morton also admitted there were errors and mistakes made by the administration in the way this recent situation was handled. Why was none of this mentioned in the above article?
Sigmund Freud October 21, 2012 at 06:11 PM
There is quite a discussion going on in the Facebook group Clarkstown Parents to Save our Schools. It seems like there is quite a story behind the principal(s) at Strawtown. I was very enlightened! https://www.facebook.com/groups/234901653224149/
ClarkstownMom #18 October 22, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Thanks Sigmund! Absolutely all true. This is something that the new BOE and Dr. Morton need to fix, because Strawtown no longer is the Blue Ribbon School it once was under the currant leadership.


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