Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Education

Hernando to post sheriff's deputy in every school

BROOKSVILLE — Following unanimous approvals by Hernando County’s School Board and Board of Commissioners Tuesday, every school in the county will be armed with a sheriff’s deputy by Thursday.

County and school district leaders agreed to split the bill — totaling $825,466 through September — so the Sheriff’s Office can provide the training and personnel to fill the school resource officer positions.

Prior to the approvals, only 13 of the district’s 23 schools, most of which are high schools, had an armed deputy. Under the new plan, 10 more officers will be trained and deployed. The agreement also pays for an additional sergeant, who will facilitate training.

The boards called the move a "first step" to amp up security in Hernando schools following a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County earlier this month, which left 17 dead and has people across the nation calling for better safety measures in schools.

"Today was a momentous day for our two boards to come together and say that our students matter in our community," said schools Superintendent Lori Romano following the School Board’s vote. "Their safety matters."

Steve Champion, chairman of the County Commission called it a "great thing to see the whole county come together."

Sheriff Al Nienhuis and Captain Harold Hutchinson, who heads up the school resource officer program for the Sheriff’s Office, came before both boards Tuesday, detailing their "ready to go" plan of action.

The deputies will be transferred from existing posts, which the sheriff will back-fill. They began training Wednesday morning and are slated to be in schools by Thursday. Armed with handguns, they will work weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the school year and in the summer. They will participate in multiple trainings, including an active-shooter course, Hutchinson said.

Funds from the county and school district will cover the deputies’ salaries as well as their cars, computers, uniforms and guns. Before commissioners agreed Tuesday to back the plan, the superintendent urged them to think of school safety as a "community issue."

"If there’s one thing we can come together around," she said, "we can come together around our children."

Commissioners expressed doubt that a school resource officer would be enough to prevent a tragedy like that in South Florida, but Romano called school safety a "multifaceted issue" that will take time to address. The district also is reviewing safety plans, undergoing additional training and "looking at every child with multiple risk factors," she said.

"This is only the first step to make our schools safer," said School Board Chairman Mark Johnson.

At a School Board workshop Tuesday afternoon, member Susan Duval worried that "moving at warp speed" on the temporary, six-month plan — not knowing whether the county will continue the partnership, or the state will fund school resource officers, as Gov. Rick Scott has suggested — could blow a hole in the district’s tight budget.

"We have finally gotten ourselves in a position of financial security ... to have a little bit of cushion that we haven’t had in many, many years," she said. "I’m not opposed to this, understand that. But I am opposed to the financial position that this has placed us in."

The problem, she said, is that it would be difficult to remove the officers once they are placed in schools and their positions are backfilled by the sheriff.

Romano and board member Beth Narverud expressed confidence that the county will continue to help foot the bill. If not, Narverud said, the district has to find a way.

"I think the climate and change in the way this world is, we have to put this first and foremost before other things, regardless of the support that we get," she said. "We always say we put our children first ... we have to put them first in this."

When the School Board voted Tuesday night, sealing the deal, their meeting room erupted in applause from the audience. A representative from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s office, who was at the meeting to present Romano with an award, praised county leaders’ joint effort to bolster school security.

"To see on the ground the momentum and the action that’s happening ... I applaud each and every one of you," Shahra Anderson said. Then to Hernando students: "We are motivated and determined by you, through you and because of you."

Comments
Hillsborough says its teachers are well-paid; the teachers say it’s not true. Who’s right?

Hillsborough says its teachers are well-paid; the teachers say it’s not true. Who’s right?

TAMPA — Seeking to show that Hillsborough County school officials waste money that could go to teacher raises, union director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins talked about highly paid administrators. She talked about legal fees paid to outside firms when in-...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sheriff: Sunlake SRO who took down student ‘did what he had to do’

Sheriff: Sunlake SRO who took down student ‘did what he had to do’

At a news conference on Wednesday, Nocco identified the officer as Richard Stackon, who joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1994. Stackon has spent "several years" as an SRO, Nocco said, and he had nothing in his file "that stands out." Around 1 p.m., Noc...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Converting Ridgewood High generates excitement, dismay

Converting Ridgewood High generates excitement, dismay

NEW PORT RICHEY — Chris Dunning is a bundle of energy as he greets families to Wendell Krinn Technical High School’s first open house.He talks rapid fire about the opportunities to earn college credits and gain career training while also completing a...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Hernando schools superintendent ‘pink-slipped’ by public following firing of 47 teachers at Moton Elementary

Hernando schools superintendent ‘pink-slipped’ by public following firing of 47 teachers at Moton Elementary

BROOKSVILLE –– A room full of people wearing purple erupted in frustration before Hernando County school officials Tuesday night, scolding Superintendent Lori Romano for her recent firing of 47 teachers at Moton Elementary, which has been struggling ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Hernando school officials deny Chehuntamo charter school on second try

Hernando school officials deny Chehuntamo charter school on second try

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board on Tuesday denied the 2019 opening of Chehuntamo Advanced Performance High School, a charter school proposed by the same group that applied once before in 2017.The team behind the school, said to be for ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Hernando School Board okays second district-wide survey to evaluate superintendent

Hernando School Board okays second district-wide survey to evaluate superintendent

BROOKSVILLE — A second district-wide survey to evaluate the performance of Superintendent Lori Romano soon will go out to about 3,000 Hernando County School District employees, giving them a chance to weigh in on the job she is doing.The instrument, ...
Published: 04/25/18
Hillsborough’s Eakins gets high praise for finances, mixed reviews on other issues in his annual School Board evaluations

Hillsborough’s Eakins gets high praise for finances, mixed reviews on other issues in his annual School Board evaluations

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins is proud of his record in boosting high school graduation rates and inroads he has made in marketing the nation’s eight largest school district.His seven bosses on the School Board...
Published: 04/25/18
Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

The family of the 18-year-old Sarasota high school student under fire for the racist prom proposal he sent out on social media this weekend has publicly apologized for their son’s actions. They also said that as a result of his actions, he wil...
Published: 04/24/18
Updated: 04/25/18
SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

LAND O’LAKES — A school resource officer at Sunlake High School is under investigation after he tried to take a female student into custody on Tuesday, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.School officials asked the SRO remove the student f...
Published: 04/24/18

Battle continues over west Pasco school rezoning

Jim Stanley does not give up without a fight.The west Pasco County parent who brought down the school district’s 2017 attendance zone revisions, leading the administration to change its procedures along the way, has filed a new challenge to the syst...
Published: 04/24/18