TRUMANSBURG, N.Y.—Trumansburg Central School District Board of Education President Scott Sherwood announced his resignation during an emotional speech at the beginning of Monday’s board meeting.
Sherwood’s departure comes five days after he posted a status on Facebook that compared the storming of the Capitol last week by supporters of President Donald Trump to Black Lives Matter protests that took place around the country last summer. Though Sherwood later deleted the status, screenshots of it made the rounds among the community on Facebook and generated enough controversy that a petition was started calling for his resignation, which gathered hundreds of signatures.
The announcement came at the start of Monday’s meeting, the board’s first of the year. After an executive session was called and ended, Sherwood delivered a statement in which he detailed that when he made the status, his understanding at the time was that the people who had infiltrated the Capitol were being peaceful, hadn’t committed any violence and were leaving in an orderly fashion, neither of which were true.
“In hindsight, I used a serious lack of judgment not considering my role on this school board, and for that I apologize for letting the administration, the teachers, the staff, this board and the community of this district down with my social media comment,” Sherwood said.
Sherwood vacillated between anger and contrition during his statement. He displayed a genuine understanding that his words had hurt people and that he should have used more foresight when posting, both as a community member and as someone who serves on the Board of Education. But he also swiped at people he said had mistreated he and his family online since the status was made, and said he was scared that views like the one he expressed wouldn’t be accepted if brought up in a classroom.
“In the past several days, I have been slandered, sworn at, and called names that I would never use about another human being,” Sherwood said. “Many if not all of these people I have never met in my life. They assume to know me based on one message, and the reality is if you asked anyone who truly does know me, you’d get a very different perspective of me and the person that I am. It is my sincere hope that the educators of our district will find a peaceful way to discuss these events. I fear for the students that may have differing opinions and how they’ll be treated based on what has happened to my family and I these past several days.”
He also encouraged parents to be careful about what they say around their children, apparently basing this warning off of rhetoric his children had faced in the days since his post from other students that he believes was fueled by other parents.
“Is that really what you want from your children? Targeting other innocent kids?” Sherwood said. “I can take the abuse myself, for myself, but the line has been crossed when it affects my family members directly. I find it painfully ironic that I am being accused of being hateful when my family are being served the very same treatment. Please do not mistake this as me trying to make myself the victim (…) but my family and children should not have to take that from people hiding behind a screen.”
As his speech went on, Sherwood grew emotional, his voice wavering and forcing him to pause periodically. He finished his comments by saying that his resignation was based mostly on his family’s experience since the post was made.
The board seemed split on whether or not they supported Sherwood’s decision. Member Randy Vanderzee and non-member Jacqueline Wright both said they thought Sherwood was being treated unfairly and that he shouldn’t have to resign. Wright, speaking as a member of the public, said that any students attacking his family online should be promptly punished. Superintendent Kimberly Bell thanked Sherwood for his work on the board but avoided taking a clear stance on whether or not he should resign.
“I think that’s wrong Scott, I think you’re making a mistake there,” Vanderzee said. “I’d ask you to stay. I understand if you’re hurt, but we need you.”
Meanwhile, Judith Pena-Shaff, Becky Barnes and Jhoanna Haynes both seemed to support Sherwood’s move. Pena-Shaff suggested that they use the incident as a learning opportunity for the entire board, but also condemned the treatment Sherwood described of his family.
“The difficult part of being an individual and a board member is keeping it separate, but then when it seeps into board work, that’s when it really affects everybody,” Haynes said. “I agree with you that those comments were very hurtful, and I really do hope that this is something we can all learn from. It does not reflect the school’s ideas promoting inclusivity and belonging and equity. It seems like there are definitely things we can all take from that, from the past week and beyond.”
After some more expressions of sympathy from the board, they decided to table their options for replacing Sherwood for the time being. Board member Jim Mielty floated the idea of nominating Haynes to take over the helm, but others pushed for the board to wait and think about the resignation before making any replacement decisions.