On February 1, 2023

WCSU board member resigns in wake of school violence, district to change emergency response protocols

Staff report

A Windsor Central Supervisory Union board member resigned Tuesday, Jan. 31, citing the district’s mishandling of violence at Woodstock Elementary School.

Todd Ulman resigned effective immediately.

“I am disturbed by the latest incident at WES and how our district handles communication to parents, teachers, administrators and the community at large,” Ulman said in his resignation letter.

Ulman said there have been multiple problematic incidents in the school. An incident in his son’s 4th grade class “led myself and my family to a place where we could not recover,” Ulman wrote.

He said his two children have desired to go to a different school and parents feel the same way. 

“That similar sentiment is echoed amongst other parents at WES regarding this latest incident,” he said.

Ulman alluded to other problems. He was frustrated with the handling of a student at Woodstock Union High School, an issue on the bus and lack of after school programming. 

“I’m just a broken record and have nothing constructive to offer… and do not wish to be a negative force in a room that always wants to be full of positivity,” Ulman wrote.

Ulman didn’t give specify what happened with any of the incidents. Attempts to reach Ulman weren’t successful. 

Superintendent Sherry Sousa sent a letter to parents on Jan. 30, explaining the district was going through a “deeply challenging time.

“I want to assure you that violence has no home in our school district community,” Sousa wrote.

Sousa declined to say more about the problems, citing the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prevents school personnel from releasing student behavior records. 

“I have heard the concerns of parents about how student behavioral issues are handled,” Sousa said in the letter, adding, “If there is an immediate threat to our students and school, law enforcement is called without hesitation.”

Sousa clarified via email to the Mountain Times that the Woodstock police have not responded to the schools for student behavioral issues. The school often consults with police officers if situations arise. 

“I chose to send out this letter as we are seeing some extreme student behaviors at all our schools and I wanted parents to understand the process for addressing those issues that are in place,” Sousa said in the email.

Sousa said homeschooling from the pandemic is likely the cause of the heightened problems. 

“The time away from the structures and routines of school have had a lasting impact,” Sousa said.  

WCSU, like all districts, has an emergency operations plan in place. Sousa said the district currently uses a lockdown approach if there are exterior threats. But, that will change this year. The school will shift to an “options plan” this spring to address future threats to schools.

Under the lockdown approach, students and staff barricade entry points, turn off the lights, cover windows and move to safe hiding locations. The option-based approach, which has been recommended since 2013, is a fluid response system empowering educators to assess the threat and do what they think is right if confronted by an active shooter or intruder. They can choose to run, hide, fight or use any combination of the responses. 

Sousa said staff will begin training on the new protocols this spring. 

Sousa clarified that while violent acts are common across the nation, she doesn’t have specific concerns for the local schools. 

“I don’t have any specific concerns about escalating school violence,” Sousa said via email. “We have strong support in all of our schools for students and families. I do know that violent acts in our nation’s schools and communities have become common events, which elevates all of our fears for what could happen.”

Until then, Sousa asked the school community to trust educators in her letter. 

“While we cannot guarantee that our schools will be free from an act of violence,” she said. “I can say that all school leaders and teachers strive to take those steps that will create meaningful relationships with students and families.”

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