For Joe Vodjansky, a 2006 graduate of Thompson Valley High School, returning to Thompson School District to serve as the Safety and Security Manager several years ago seemed like a perfect fit.
Joe started his career in law enforcement, serving as both a patrol deputy and detention deputy with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.
“I wanted to help people,” Joe explains. “In law enforcement, you encounter people who are going through a crisis. I wanted to help people through that and make them feel safe when they didn’t feel like anyone else was there to care.”
That desire to help make things better for people inspired Joe to pursue a career in education. After several years as an assistant football and wrestling coach for Thompson Valley High School, Joe realized he really enjoyed supporting students and helping them to achieve their goals.
“The sheriff’s office is a first-class agency, but I felt like if I was going to make a career change, I should do it while I was still young,” Joe says. He started out as a campus monitor at Walt Clark Middle School, and later became a threat assessment specialist for the district, managing student safety plans while keeping his focus on helping kids through tough times.
From there, it was a natural transition to managing the safety and security department for the district, a position that allows Joe to combine his passion for safety and law enforcement with his desire to help students. As the leader of the team charged with keeping TSD students safe, Joe oversees the district’s 14 campus monitors, responds to emergencies, and serves as a liaison between the district and the first responder agencies in our community.
It’s a job he enjoys, but also takes very seriously. “As of 2018, every kid in our school district is post-Columbine. I think that when Columbine hit, the unimaginable became possible. Our kids don’t deserve to think about that. My job is to deal with that so they can focus on this very important but limited time in their lives. It’s a gift that all of us can work together to give them.”
Joe also works closely with the 13 school resource officers serving in the district and believes that his background in law enforcement is a huge asset to his current role.
“The biggest area where law enforcement has benefitted me is staying calm in managing an emergency,” Joe says. “A lot of my job is to make sure the what-if never happens but be prepared if it does. Our main goal is to be preventative, not responsive.”
Joe believes the SRO team has a critical responsibility to help the students in our district, but he also thinks that, in many ways, they are in a unique position to support kids. “They provide an extra layer of safety, and help educate kids on things they might encounter,” he explains. “They talk about substance abuse, mental health, safe relationships. They support us in helping our students understand things that don’t necessarily come from a textbook. There are things we all learned in school that have nothing to do with science and social studies.”
Lately, Joe’s job has been even more challenging, as he has helped organize the Covid-19 response in TSD. From doing contact tracing to helping coordinate vaccines, and everything in between, Joe has helped to manage the unmanageable, but he is quick to share the credit.
“I love the people of TSD. Our people here are incredible,” Joe says. “They really excel. We all work together to make sure our schools are safe. All of us, every single district employee is part of our team to make sure that kids are safe every day.”
But despite the enormity of that responsibility, Joe says there is no other district, or job, he would rather be in. “Thompson is home,” he says.