TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School Board filled two of the district's toughest jobs Tuesday, placing a police commander in charge of security and a former social science teacher at the head of facilities.
No two departments, with the possible exception of special education, have been more controversial in recent months.
As chief of security, John Newman leaves a 28-year career with Tampa police to head an in-house security force that is preparing to post armed guards in elementary schools.
Newman replaces David Friedberg, who built up the school district's security force and created a unique partnership with law enforcement. Unlike other districts, Hillsborough has officers who are armed but do not have arrest powers. They train with the police and Hillsborough sheriff's deputies, and both agencies send sworn resource officers to middle and high schools.
The decision to add district-trained officers to elementary schools came after nearly a year of debate. Already, the district has guards in some elementary schools.
Newman has managed school resource officers for the Police Department. He was promoted to assistant chief in May 2012, before the Republican National Convention. He has worked in patrol, narcotics, criminal intelligence and internal affairs. He spent five years as an undercover detective.
Police Chief Jane Castor said she's sad to see Newman leave but glad he'll still be working closely with Tampa police. When Newman oversaw the school resource officers, he worked closely with Friedberg. "It was a logical choice for the Hillsborough County school system," Castor said. "I can't think of a better choice."
The new facilities chief, Chris Farkas, joined the district in 1999. He has served as principal of Tampa Bay Technical and Freedom high schools. He was tapped in 2012 to lead Area 8 in east Hillsborough.
The facilities department has been in the spotlight as it includes transportation. Bus drivers and trainers, at public meetings and in a memo, have alleged buses are in poor condition and, despite improvements after a student death, the system still is not safe for special-needs children.
Sitting through a contentious board discussion Tuesday about the issues, Farkas said, "Obviously, when you walk into a situation, you want to get it correct. Under the direction of the board and superintendent, we want to make sure we get it correct so the employees feel comfortable and our students are safe."