Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough School Board says no to Elia's security plan

In the opening minutes of the Hillsborough County School Board meeting on Tuesday, the board agreed to consider superintendent MaryEllen Elia's $3.7-million-a-year school security plan in components.

Member Candy Olson made the motion, which passed unanimously.

Elia's plan, which reflects meetings with law enforcement that began almost immediately after the Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn., will place armed and trained personnel in all of the district's schools.

The 130 new security employees, who would provide coverage in elementary schools, would complement 78 resource officers who already work at the district's middle and high schools.

Audience members had mixed opinions of the plan on Tuesday.

Parent Kelly Scott said, "I don't understand the rationale of keeping guns out of the schools by bringing more guns into the schools. I think that as a community, we can do better than that."

Tom Allyn, retired from both law enforcement and the military, also spoke out against the plan.

"Our problem, which we are not addressing, is deranged people," he said. "Find ways to secure access. Spend the money on our teachers."

Two elementary school principals, meanwhile, spoke in favor of the plan. Karen Bass, principal of Bryant Elementary School, said Elia's plan has the support of the district's elementary principal's council as well.

To Elia's critics, she said, "I think there's a difference between a knee-jerk reaction and a fast and well thought out reaction."

Julie Scardino, principal of Sulphur Springs Elementary, also supports it.

Her school, which serves a high-crime Tampa neighborhood, already has a resource officer.

"He is not seen as an armed guard," she said. "He is a member of the school staff. He is a member of our community."

The costs, including $1.2 million to make structural improvements to schools where access is not secure enough, would add up to about $2 million this year.

Costs for 2013-2014, the first full year, would be $4.1 million, then $3.7 million each year after that.

Hillsborough beefed up security in its 142 elementary schools just days after the Connecticut shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Costs for this interim coverage have been absorbed by the law enforcement agencies. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office pays overtime. The Tampa Police Department uses existing patrol officers. In both cases, the officers are there primarily in the morning and at dismissal.

Elia's plan would enlist school safety expert Michael Dorn as a consultant, at a cost of $8,500. And the district would continue its crisis management training.

The 130 new security officers would be private security, not law enforcement. Candidates might include retired military and law enforcement officials, or individuals with no military or police training at all.

The school district would train all of these officers, a process that Elia estimated would take five to six weeks. In addition to security, they would work inside the schools as resource officers do, a job that includes crime prevention and education.

The first year's costs of $2 million would come from a contingency account of close to $100-million. Elia and the board members guarded that account fiercely during the recession, refusing to dip into it even when teachers went without pay raises.

After the initial $2-million, Elia proposed that costs be funded through the district budget.

Hillsborough School Board says no to Elia's security plan 01/15/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 12:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  3. Analysis: Manchester attack was exactly what many had long feared


    LONDON — For Britain's security agencies, London always seemed like the likely target. For years, the capital of 8 million with hundreds of thousands of weekly tourists and dozens of transit hubs had prepared for and feared a major terror attack.

  4. Dade City man dies after crashing into county bus, troopers say

    Public Safety

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 38-year-old man died Tuesday after colliding into the rear of a county bus on U.S. 301, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  5. Suspicious device at Pinellas Park home was a spent artillery round, police say

    Public Safety

    PINELLAS PARK — Bomb squad investigators determined that a "suspicious device" found at a Pinellas Park home Tuesday afternoon was a spent artillery round, police said.