School administrator: Slain kids 'the most pleasant boys'

— Three of the five children being mourned were part of a tight-knit school community where they were loved, say administrators at Osceola Elementary School.

“They were just the most polite boys ever, the most pleasant boys,” said Melanie Fike, assistant principal. “They were just very happy — smiling and happy to be in school.”

Likewise, their mother was very involved in their education, attending teacher conferences, curriculum nights and asking what she could do to enrich her children’s education at home, Principal Jody Jordan said.

Guerline Damas, 32, and her five children Michzach, 9, Marven, 6, Maven, 5, Megan, 3, and Morgan, 11 months, were found slain in their home in North Naples Saturday. Mesac Damas, 33, the father and “person of interest” in the case is believed to be in Haiti following a Friday morning flight.

Fike said the only time she talked to Mesac Damas was in the summer, when he came to register his youngest son for kindergarten.

“We had a very normal conversation, just about how much we enjoy having his sons here at school,” said Fike.

Fike and Jordan said the boys, Michzack, Marven and Maven, were last in school on Thursday. Their two youngest siblings had not yet reached school age. Michzack and Marven came to the school in March of last year, after transferring from Lely Elementary School.

Sticking with district policy, an automated message was sent to the children’s home Friday when they were logged as absent. Jordan said parents often call the school to explain a child’s absence, but it is not unusual to get no communication following that automated message. She said it is intended more as an informational service for the parents, in case a child was dropped off at school or put on a bus, but played hookey instead.

In the event that a child is absent for several days in a row, Jordan said, the school typically tries to make a personal phone call to a parent to inquire about the child.

Collier County School District spokesman Joe Landon issued a statement Sunday morning informing the public that crisis counselors will be sent to the school Monday morning.

Jordan said the counselors would be on campus by 7 a.m., ready to greet students as they arrive for breakfast, at 7:50, and the start of school, at 8:20. All three boys were regular bus riders, and Jordan said she had identified other children who would have been on the same route; a counselor will greet that bus when it arrives in the morning.

Teachers were alerted Sunday morning about the tragedy, and Jordan said they will be briefed Monday morning about how to handle students who need to see a grief counselor. Counselors will specifically be sent to the classrooms of each of the three boys, who were in third grade, first grade and kindergarten, respectively.

A statement will be made about the children on the morning news announcements, Jordan said, and the school will observe a moment of silence.

The three boys were well known and well liked around school, said Jordan. Michzack, who went by Zack, always had a black baseball cap on sideways when he was outside the school walls.

“Most students would know him as the kid in the sideways cap,” said Jordan.

He often visited his little brother’s first-grade classroom to ask Marven’s teacher what he could do to help his brother at home and with his school work.

Marven, likewise was happy-go-lucky and perfectly mannered. When Jordan called him into her office to give him a gentle scolding about running into the street at his bus stop, he agreed politely to stay on the sidewalk and set a good example for his younger brother, Maven.

At the school Monday, teachers and administrators will be working as sensitively as possible to identify who needs help and how best to help them.

“I think what worries us most is little children internalize things,” said Jordan. “We’re trying to be very careful in how we prepare our statement that we put out to students.”

Grief counselors will also be sent to Lely Elementary School, according to the district, to attend to any children who were friends of the boys at their former school.

“We’re grateful we have a school district crisis team that will be coming in tomorrow,” said Jordan. “Neither Mrs. Fife nor myself has ever dealt with anything of this magnitude.”

Connect with reporter Leslie Williams at naplesnews.com/staff/leslie_williams.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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