Dekalb school district gets national praise for teamwork

9:16 PM, Aug 23, 2013   |    comments
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DECATUR, Ga. -- The shooting at McNair Discovery Learning Academy immediately drew national attention.  Now, it's getting national praise, for what the principal has dubbed the "miracle on Second Avenue."

PHOTOS | Gunman at DeKalb elementary school

The name refers to the schools location, and the miracle is that no one was hurt, when police say 20-year old Michael Hill entered the school with an AK-47.

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On Thursday, the employee credited with talking Hill down received a personal phone call from President Obama.

In an interview with Chris Cuomo he said, "I thought here is somebody who is not just courage and not just cool under pressure, but also had enough heart that somehow that she could convince somebody that was really troubled that she cared about him."

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On Friday, the entire district received praise from the U.S. Secretary of Education.  In a phone conference meeting, Arne Duncan told them,"I think we all go into education to transform lives, not to save them. Your team this week saved lots and lots and lots of lives."

The district is already discussing additional ways to keep its students safe.  It will look at the feasibility and benefits of panic buttons and additional training.  It will also discuss using metal detectors and school resource officers at its elementary schools, tools only used at its middle and high schools right now.

The districts department of public safety would like to see its cameras upgraded from analog to digital to improve picture quality.

On Tuesday, cameras certainly proved their worth. Within minutes of the standoff, Sergeant Mary Parks was able to get inside the command center at the district's police headquarters, to use the cameras to scan for other shooters.  She then gave police a play by play of Michael Hill's actions inside the office.

"He did a lot of pacing, pacing around. He just seemed agitated, confused," said Parks.

Antionette Tuff on the other hand, seemed compassionate and in control as she convinced the gunman to surrender.

"Just her body language, she appeared so calm," Parks added.

Tuff told Anderson Cooper during an interview on CNN, that a lifetime of experiences took over, giving her the words to say.

"That was nobody but God's grace and mercy, because I can truly tell you I was terrified inside," said Tuff.

Malcolm Quillen was also in that office, before Hill ordered him to leave. He immediately put the school on lockdown. Days later, he's still hesitant to go back in that room.

"Yes it does feel different, I think about it every time I walk in there," he said.

The school principal says he's encouraged his entire staff to take the weekend to spoil themselves.  He says teachers always pour out on others, now its time to let others pour into them.

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