Hillsborough superintendent looks to make elementary school patrols permanent
TAMPA — The Hillsborough County school district is preparing to hire and train security officers for its elementary schools, a practice already in place until the end of this school year.
Schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia announced the plan at a news conference Wednesday morning. "It will mean that we have armed and trained personnel in all of our schools," Elia said.
The plan will be on the agenda for the next School Board meeting on Tuesday at 3 p.m. It calls for the hiring and training of 130 security employees at a cost of $700,000 this year and $4.1 million for next school year. See our story here.
Read on for the district's release on the superintendent's plan.
Superintendent Proposes Elementary School Security Plan
Tampa, Fla. – (January 9, 2013) – Superintendent MaryEllen Elia was joined by law enforcement, school security, elementary principals, School Board members, and parents today as she announced multi-faceted, long-term plans to enhance security at every elementary school.
The proposal will be brought to the School Board next week. It is designed to make district elementary schools safer and more secure. It involves the following:
- Bringing in a national school safety expert to recommend improvements in the district’s safety protocols and facilities. He will work with local law enforcement and district security staff to conduct school-by-school reviews
- Changes in facilities to make sure there is controlled access to all campuses.
- Ongoing crisis management training for administrators, staff, and students.
- And hiring an additional 130 security personnel. When they are added to the school resource deputies/officers that have been provided by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Tampa Police Department, the district will have armed and trained personnel in every school. They will perform duties similar to the ones performed by SROs and SRDs.
This multi-faceted approach is comprehensive and it is expensive. The agenda item going to the Board details the cost and the plans for paying for the plan. To view the agenda item, click here.
“Let me tell you that I wish this wasn’t necessary. I wish we didn’t have to consider any of these strategies, but the world has changed since I was in school. It changed again on December 14th,” said Superintendent Elia.
The Monday after the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, the superintendent had the opportunity to speak to the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation. At that time, she told delegation members that they had a role in finding solutions and urged them to do so. The superintendent plans to aggressively lobby for school security funding from Tallahassee and Washington, and already has been in contact with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Congresswoman Cathy Castor, and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford.
“But, here in Hillsborough County, we don’t believe it’s all someone else’s responsibility. We have a role and a responsibility. We’re not going to wait around hoping our students and staff are safe,” the superintendent said.
After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the reactions and responses were swift – and in many cases, inspiring. The response in Hillsborough County was especially gratifying. Local law enforcement worked with the school district to design a plan that was impressive in its scope and immediacy. The tragedy occurred on a Friday. The following Monday, armed officers and deputies were at each elementary school.
“I can’t say enough about how grateful I am to Sheriff Gee and Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor for their work and the work of their staffs,” said Superintendent Elia.
“Parents let us know that they also appreciated that response, and I have read and personally heard specific words of praise from parents who said they felt a lot better when they dropped off their son or daughter at school to know that there was an officer there to protect their children,” she added.
That enhanced level of security continued throughout the final week before the start of the two-week Winter Break. It was a major commitment of time and resources and a logistical challenge. Nevertheless, the Sheriff and Police Chief have committed to providing enhanced security in district elementary schools for the remainder of the school year. This plan is designed to provide enhanced security beyond the current school year.