PREPaRE Trainers in Action: Good People Doing Great Things

Spotlight on Howard County Public School System, Maryland

By Lisa Coffey, EdS, NCSP, Member, School Safety and Crisis Response Committee

The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) has a long history of supporting crisis preparation and response efforts. A district-level crisis intervention team was established in the early 1990s to help support school communities following crisis events. The HCPSS crisis response model has evolved over the last 25 years, as the county has transitioned from a more rural to a suburban community. During this time, the number of students and staff members in the district’s schools has almost doubled.

Currently, there are two levels of crisis teams in the county. School-based crisis teams provide crisis intervention under the leadership of the principal and student services team. The district-level crisis response team is comprised of 50 school psychologists, school counselors, pupil personnel workers, and school nurses. This team is available to provide consultation and/or direct support to school-based staff as needed, depending on the nature and intensity of the crisis event. The district-level crisis team members volunteer to be on this team and must participate in 2 full days of advanced crisis training each year.

Since Howard County is a large suburban school district, the HCPSS Crisis Intervention Team members must be prepared to respond to a variety of crises. During the 2015–2016 school year, the leadership team provided consultative support for 82 school-based teams following crisis events. In addition, members of the district-level team directly supported students, staff, and families at 18 schools following traumatic events. The Crisis Intervention Team leadership group also collaborates with community-based agencies to ensure a continuum of care and to provide psychoeducational opportunities for parents and community members when needed.

In addition to providing consultation and direct supports after a traumatic event, the HCPSS Crisis Intervention Team’s leadership group plans and delivers crisis trainings for school-based and central office staff. At the beginning of each school year, all new administrators and student services staff are invited to attend an introductory, half-day crisis training to learn about basic crisis preparation and response strategies. They then practice these skills while responding to a real-time crisis simulation. Additional trainings on specialized topics are offered a few times each year based on needs assessment data and lessons learned from previous crisis responses. Recent training topics include The Impact of Technology on School Crisis Response, Lessons Learned From the Columbia Mall Shooting, Supporting School Communities After a Suicide, and School-Based Crisis Team Development.

The HCPSS Crisis Intervention Team’s leadership group coordinates all of the crisis responses and crisis trainings within the county. The current leadership group includes:

  • Dr. J. T. Ridgely, School Psychologist, Chairperson - HCPSS Crisis Intervention Teams
  • Dr. Cynthia Schulmeyer, School Psychologist, Coordinator for School Psychologists, Section 504, and Instructional Intervention
  • Mr. Dan Carr, School Psychologist, Crisis Team Coleader
  • Ms. Lori Jenner, School Counselor, Crisis Team Coleader
  • Ms. Keren Kreitzer, School Psychologist, Crisis Team Coleader
  • Mr. Jeff Leard, School Psychologist, Crisis Team Coleader
  • Ms. Jenn McKechnie, School Counselor, Crisis Team Coleader
  • Dr. Mike O’Shaughnessy, School Psychologist, Crisis Team Coleader

Each of these team members has between 10 to 20 years of experience on the crisis team. Five members of the leadership group are PREPaRE trainers (J. T. Ridgely, Cynthia Schulmeyer, Dan Carr, Keren Kreitzer, and Jeff Leard). This winter, they provided the PREPaRE Crisis Intervention and Recovery training (Workshop 2) to the entire HCPSS district-level crisis team. This PREPaRE training will also be offered to selected members of HCPSS school-based crisis teams during the 2017–2018 school year.

For more information, you may contact J. T. Ridgely at

PREPaRE in Action—Good People Doing Great Things

The Excellence in School Safety and Crisis Response Recognition Award is part of the NASP School Safety and Crisis Response Committee’s (SSCRC) ongoing effort to help school psychologists promote the balance of physical and psychological safety, respond to crises to reduce psychological harm, and assist with the return to adaptive coping in schools following school-associated crises.

This award recognizes school safety and crisis teams, individuals, or groups that embody positive leadership, display a spirit of collaboration, and demonstrate effectiveness in the PREPaRE key concepts.

Submissions for the award can be made at any time by completing the nomination form. The completed form should be submitted to the SSCRC Chair Benjamin Fernandez at

Using PREPaRE as the foundation of school safety and crisis response, teams strive to prevent crises from occurring, prepare for those they cannot prevent, and support a school community’s recovery after an event. The trainer’s newsletter will highlight recipients of the award to provide examples and demonstrate the impact of PREPaRE.

Submit a Nomination

ESSA OverviewLearn about the Excellence in School Safety and Crisis Response Recognition Award, share a nomination with the fillable PDF form, and submit to Benjamin Fernandez.

View Fellow Recognitions

The PREPaRE Trainers in Action: Good People Doing Great Things intiative has received many nominations, such as the Howard County Public School System.

Learn how school leaders have used knowledge and skills gained from the PREPaRE curriculum to address school safety crisis prevention, intervention, and recovery needs; become inspired on how to facilitate systemic change in your local community; and learn how to apply those key concepts and strategies in your community.