Meet Stratford Public Schools’ New Director of School Safety

STRATFORD — Stratford Public Schools has hired a Director of School Safety who is finding ways to make his schools safer and leading a team that will receive de-escalation training.

School officials say the director of security and residence at the school, Carlos A. Castro, a 25-year Stratford police veteran and Gulf War veteran, reviewed fire, lockdown and evacuation drills since early summer.

The hiring comes as the school district implements other measures to protect students, including the recent launch of an app, STOPit, which allows students to make reports to school officials while remaining anonymous. .

Some school districts, particularly those in Texas, have implemented new safety measures in the wake of the May 24 Uvalde school shooting.

But Castro disputes characterizations that his job is simply to protect students from an active shooter. An October letter from Superintendent Uyi Osunde said the new position was part of work the school district began about a month before the tragedy.

“It’s not a primary reason,” Castro said. “It’s overall school security, regardless of the threat.”

In his letter, Osunde said Castro had “begun, working with directors and other administrators to review and refine our traditional fire, lockout and evacuation drills, inspect the physical plant of each of our district buildings and make suggestions and recommendations that improve our security protocols.

“Mr. Castro is additionally, and understandably, working transparently with our police department, further strengthening an already strong collaborative relationship,” Osunde wrote.

Castro told Hearst Connecticut Media he had recommendations that have since been adopted, but won’t say what the changes were. He fears that the publication of emergency plans will help those who seek to harm students.

“It’s not wise to say your plans for safety and security,” Castro said.

The school district has brought in “climate specialists,” who Castro says have duties that include building relationships with students and monitoring hallways.

“The main thing is the relationship between them and their students, where sometimes a student may not feel like they can, for example, talk to a teacher,” he said.

Castro won’t say how many specialists he runs, but said every school will have at least one. As leader of the growing team, he plans to attend de-escalation training at Middletown next year and pass those lessons on to his staff. He went through a similar training program that taught ways to hold people down without hurting them.

Castro also has experience as a hostage negotiator when he was a police officer.

Although he’s already successfully implemented changes to the district’s safety protocols, Castro said there’s still a lot of work to do and he’s still looking for ways to make the district safer.

“I take this job seriously,” Castro said. “Sometimes I’m sitting in front of the TV and I’m going up and my wife is like, ‘What’s going on?’ and I said, ‘No, I just have an idea.'”