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‘As a superintendent, we pray it’s never something this horrific.’ Pinellas schools reach out to Broward, offer support

Broward County schools superintendent and Florida Association of District School Superintendents Robert Runcie (left) named Pinellas County superintendent Mike Grego (center) as the 2018 Florida Superintendent of the Year in November. Grego said he reached out to Runcie this morning in light of the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Tuesday. "I did try to reach out to Bob. He’s a great leader. I consider him a friend," Grego said.
Broward County schools superintendent and Florida Association of District School Superintendents Robert Runcie (left) named Pinellas County superintendent Mike Grego (center) as the 2018 Florida Superintendent of the Year in November. Grego said he reached out to Runcie this morning in light of the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Tuesday. "I did try to reach out to Bob. He’s a great leader. I consider him a friend," Grego said.
Published Feb. 15, 2018|Updated Feb. 15, 2018

Pinellas County Schools superintendent Mike Grego saw the news of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Tuesday and thought of his friend.

Grego watched Broward County school superintendent Robert Runcie give another exhausting press conference. Grego dialed Runcie's secretary and left his cell number. They were just together in Tallahassee last month.

"As a superintendent, we pray it's never something this horrific," Grego told the Times on Wednesday. "But when it does and it did in Broward County, we need everyone to come together and to pray and provide assistance to comfort them."

Grego offered Runcie schools police assistance and counselors on hand for crisis support.

"Whatever it is that he needs, just let us know and Pinellas county certainly will find a way to certainly assist."

He added, "(Runcie's) a good leader. He'll be able to bring this community through this. …But Superintendent Runcie is a good leader and he'll be able to do that."

Grego said there will be increased law enforcement patrols on campuses for the next few days and counselors will be available. He wrote to parents that "it is a tragic reality that we must review all procedures regularly."

"We want to remind our parents and our students that the best line of defense is the observation of students around you and what's happening," he said. "The obvious presence of social media…and reporting those things and not taking anything for granted and not taking things too lightly."

"Primarily, schools are some of the safest places but this is a larger reflection on society, whether it's a night club in Orlando or a shooting in Vegas," he added. "This is a societal issue that really needs to be addressed and this type of behavior is unacceptable."

Area superintendents have instructed principals to cancel fire drills or lockout/lockdown calls this week and to announce drills beforehand if any are held next week. They also told principals to walk their campus to ensure that gates and doors lock and that school TV and announcements should reinforce "if you see something, say something."

Pinellas Schools Police will also visit elementary schools.

In Pasco County, school district officials have assigned counselors to report to schools and instructed schools cancel safety drills this week. Pasco County Sheriff's Office will also staff additional deputies at schools Wednesday "for peace of mind."

"The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy has struck our nation creating many unanswered questions and leaving a need for resources as we deal with the aftermath of trauma," the district wrote to school administrators Tuesday night. "Students across the district will likely hear about this tragedy, so staff will need to know how to address this in our schools in the days to come. The most important thing all educators, parents, and other adults must do for kids is to create a sense of normalcy and assure a sense of safety."

Pasco school district officials introduced a plan in August to teach students how to fight back, rather than hide, in the event of an active shooter.

Hillsborough County School Board member Lynn Gray said in a statement that she has called for metal detectors in every middle and high school.

"It is not a question of if a shooting will occur, it is a question of when," she wrote. "When the incident happened just a while ago, it could have been one of our schools. No matter where it is, this is the saddest time for families, friends, loved ones and the entire community. I am more than saddened, yet angry, at the fact weapons are being brought to our school and kids caught almost on a daily basis."

In a video message posted on the Hernando County Sheriff's Office Facebook page, Sheriff Al Nienhuis and Superintendent Lori Romano said there will be an increased police presence at schools for the near future.

Romano asked families to report bullying to a teacher or administrator so it does not lead to crime.

"It's also important to know that friends and family are the first line of defense," said Nienhuis. "If you know a young person who's acting irrationally, please say something immediately to local law enforcement."

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