After continuing the law enforcement presence at Temple Terrace schools when students returned from winter break, school officials announced a long-term plan on Wednesday to continue enhanced security measures in the wake of last month's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
During a press conference at the Raymond O. Shelton School Administrative Center in downtown Tampa before PTA officials and local principals, schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia discussed a "multi-faceted proposal" that will be brought to the school board at the next meeting on Jan. 15.
The plan, which school officials outlined in a document passed out to the crowd, is as follows:
- Bringing in national security expert Michael Dorn to review safety and security protocols and school access control. Currently, local law enforcement and school security staff are reviewing access at school entrances and exits. The cost to hire Dorn is $8,500.
- Securing the remaining 10 percent of schools—90 percent are "appropriately access controlled"—at an estimated cost of about $1.2 million.
- Hiring an additional 130 security personnel so that each school in Hillsborough County has armed and trained officials at school. The security personnel would perform similar duties to school resource officers and school resource deputies. Those who may be hired include retired law enforcement officers, people with military backgrounds or inexperienced residents interested in being trained, Elia said. The Tampa Police Department and the sheriff's office added security for the 2012-13 school year, giving school board officials time to hire, train and recruit the additional security personnel. The cost to add 50 security personnel for the 2012-13 school year is $700,000, and $4.1 million for 2013-14.
- Continue crisis management training of administrators, faculty, students and staff. The cost is estimated at $40,000 through 2013-14.
"I wish that it wasn't necessary," said Elia. "Our lives have changed over the past 10-15 years. After 9-11, things were different in this country."
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Greco Middle School has two school resource officers because the school is wide spread, said Principal Olayinka Alege. Both officers are employed as security officers with the school district.
"They bulid relationships with students so when something is about to happen or (students) hear something or even witness something, they feel comfortable going directly to the officer and informing them so many possible incidents are prevented," Alege said. "As a result, you'd often find our officers playing proactive roles like interacting with students in the hallway, spending time with them during lunches, serving as mentors to struggling students and holding mediations with students and parents, among other things."
Because the school already has two officers, Alege said, Greco might not necessarily benefit from additional security personnel.
"I think the more, the merrier, but it would not be financially responsible right now because we don't have enough incidents at our school to warrant more than two officers," he explained. "Resources are helpful as we attempt to connect with more students on an individual basis, so non-security positions would be more appropriate, if additional funding was available."
The funding is one of School Board member Cindy Stuart's concerns. Board members were told of the plan in phone calls from Elia on Tuesday night, and some told Tampabay.com that they would have liked to have been told earlier.
"It's the cart before the horse," Stuart said, according to the website. "It puts us in a position where if we vote against it, we are against school safety. And if we vote for it, we could be fiscally irresponsible. That's a lot of money."
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