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Staying Calm – One Willow Dean’s Philosophy on Safety

Tremaine Mitchell, dean of upper elementary at Willow Charter Academy, was always safety conscious, but he never expected to become a school safety specialist (SSS).
His initial reaction when asked to be an SSS was one of uncertainty, but he quickly took ownership of the role and is doing a stellar job of raising safety awareness at Willow in his first year serving as SSS. His secret? Keeping calm.
“I believe staying calm and collected helps students, parents, and staff members when safety issues and drills arise because everyone wants to know that everything will be okay,” he said. “Adding to the chaos that may be present during a safety issue or drill only elevates what a person may be feeling. When others are around me or see me, I want them to know that things will be okay.”
When safety is compromised, he remains calm by remembering his training and there are plans in place for a reason. “Each situation brings a new set of challenges, but I must remember that I’ve been equipped for whatever I’m about to face,” he said. “Most importantly, my faith helps me stay calm.”
Being a school safety specialist is much more than checking off a list of drills, it’s also about raising safety awareness and ensuring communication. Mr. Mitchell believes clear and precise communication is necessary.
He also understands the importance of planning for safety. It’s vital to make sure everything is planned out and that everyone understands the seriousness of it. “Planning has been the biggest piece,” he said. “And making sure everyone understands their role.”
He’s passionate about making sure each student, staff member, and parent feels safe and welcome at Willow, often thinking of his wife and sons and their safety as if they were in the building. “I believe it takes a village to raise a child, and Willow is a village,” said Mr. Mitchell.
Mr. Mitchell’s biggest piece of advice for teachers and students when it comes to safety is to trust school leaders and the school safety specialist and understand that they are there to keep them safe.
“Tremaine is a great asset to the NHA safety program!” said Brian Gard, director of health and safety at National Heritage Academies. “We appreciate his dedication and leadership to ensure the students, staff, and visitors to Willow Charter Academy experience a safe environment.”

Willow Charter Academy, a school in the Lafayette area in Louisiana, is a partner school in the National Heritage Academies network of over 90 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 60,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. For more information, visit
Keep up the excellent work, Mr. Mitchell!