ECS Responds to Threat
Superintendent Holds Meeting with Parents
Story by John Thomas
School Shooter Threat
Last Friday, March 23 at 8:25 AM, a teacher at the ECS High School found a map of the school in a classroom. The map contained comments about a shooter and showed routes from entrances into the building. There were no dates or times on the map. By 8:30 the teacher had given the map to High School Principal Erich Ploetz. He showed the map to Superintendent Bob Miller who decided to call for a Shelter in Place drill for the school. The New York State Police were called, as well as the Ellicottville Police Department and the County Sheriff’s Department. Because there was no way to determine who created the map or how many other people might be involved, it was decided to move the school to a lockout out procedure. The outside doors were all locked and students were told to stay in their classrooms. Police officers escorted students to and from the bathroom and delivered lunch to the classrooms. During the investigation, it was determined a student had created the map, and there was no outside threat. The students were sent home about 12:30.
On Tuesday night the school held an informational meeting with about 200 parents attending. Mr. Miller said the recent violence that has taken place across the country “really has people thinking.” He stressed the staff at the school would give “150 percent to protect your kids.” The Superintendent added that several of the first people killed at Sandy Hook and Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School were teachers who were shot running toward the shooter. Miller wanted to address rumors that had been circulating since the incident. There were no weapons found at the school, and the event was not a bomb threat or drug search. He added he was very confident the episode was over and there is no more threat. School staff worked through the weekend to determine the best way to deal with the students the following week. They decided to hold a student meeting first thing Monday morning. Erich Ploetz showed a Power Point presentation that emphasized to the students they are safe, known, and loved at ECS. Mr. Ploetz said he and his students had “felt completely safe back in the building.” Mr. Miller acknowledged there were several things he felt he could have done better. Despite that confession, at the end of the parent meeting, several them said the Superintendent had handled the situation “beautifully,” and offered him a round of applause. One parent said, “I feel a thousand percent better.”
Inappropriate Contact Allegation
The meeting with the parents was followed by a regularly scheduled ECS Board meeting. At the Board meeting, the parents of an ECS student confronted the board with an allegation of inappropriate contact between their son and a staff member of the school. Earlier in the day, the parents had delivered a sealed letter to the members of the board. In addressing the board the mother asked them to acknowledge receipt of the letter, which they did, but most said they had not had time to read it. (The Villager is withholding the parent’s names, and the school is not releasing the name of the staff member or student pending the investigation). The parents are demanding an investigation and answers to their questions. Also, the parents wanted a time frame for the investigation and Board action. Board President Connie Hellwig said they would discuss the matter in executive session and said she couldn’t at that point give the parents a time frame for action. The mother said she did not want to see the issue be “swept under the rug.” Ms. Hellwig said she would stay in contact with the parents. Elementary School Principal Connie Poulin assured the parents Superintendent Bob Miller would conduct a thorough investigation, saying he is very caring and detail oriented. Mr. Miller assured the parents he would not sweep the issue under the carpet, and said despite the school lockout he had spent a good part of his day “dealing with that issue.” The staff member has been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation.
Turning to more mundane matters, Mr. Miller reported staff development day went well. High School Principal Erich Ploetz has developed a Power Point presentation on dealing with the mental health of students; in particular how to identify a troubled student. The Superintendent noticed some teachers during the incident on the 23rd were taking steps on their own to protect the students.
For the High School report, Erich Ploetz said his students had volunteered to stuff the envelopes for the Smart Growth Survey the Town and Village mailed to citizens. He said the total was about 4000 envelopes. The Principal wanted to thank the students, teachers, and parents who worked on the musical, as well as those who attended the performances. He played trumpet in the orchestra, and said he hadn’t realized the time commitment it would take, and admired the dedication of the students and staff. Mr. Ploetz showed a couple of posters from the science fair and said they represented “college-level work.”