Briarcliff Manor Union Free Schools District Superintendent James Kashian notified the community Monday morning via email about the death of Todd Elementary School second-grade teacher Eugene Coe.
Kashian said Coe died unexpectedly on Saturday, Dec. 28.
“As we attempt to reconcile this loss, Ms. McDermott, district administration and faculty are working to put together a plan that will best enable our school community to do the same,” Kashian said in the email. “Prior to the start of school, members of the Todd administration and staff will reach out to the families of Mr. Coe’s class and to those we feel may be most directly affected.”
Briarcliff Manor resident and Todd School Elementary parent Pamela Halpern said her daughter is one of Coe’s 22 students who are all “truly devastated.”
“Gene Coe was a wonderful and talented teacher who will be missed,” she said. "He has touched our hearts and souls in a way that can never be forgotten. Our children are better people for having known him."
Kashian said the school would have crisis management workers and volunteers on hand when school reopens from winter break to “ensure that students and families are provided with support and guidance.” His email also included the following information and advice for discussing the loss with a child:
• Create an atmosphere where your child feels safe to discuss feelings and ask questions – there are no right or wrong ways to feel and/or respond.
• Be honest but don’t delve too deeply – children ages 6- 10 years old are developmentally becoming more aware of the permanence of death. Avoid euphemisms (i.e. he’s ‘gone to sleep’) and give them the facts that are appropriate. For example, you might say, “There has been sad news in our community. We learned that Mr. Coe has died. While we have many questions as to why and how, we don’t know the details. What is important to remember is that he was a good man who cared about his Briarcliff Manor school family.”
• Ensure your child that there will be support at home and at school should they feel the need to talk or if their feelings become overwhelming for them. Tell them that extra people will be available at school to help them and that we will all work together to overcome this loss.• Let your child know there will be opportunities to honor Mr. Coe’s memory. Your child might want to draw a picture to express him or herself or to capture a favorite memory.
• Remember that it is okay for a child to witness an adult’s sadness and grief. Part of the process of grieving and in ultimately developing resiliency and empathy is witnessing and sharing in the loss. Your child will learn and grow if he or she is able to witness, to be a part of and to be supported by caring adults who demonstrate an ability to join together to overcome a loss.