The Franklin County School board Monday moved forward to shore up its security operation for the upcoming school year.
In addition to striking a deal with the sheriff on the terms for two school resource officers, the board members at their workshop agreed to a job description for a newly implemented school security specialist which will not, as originally envisioned, require a master’s degree.
Superintendent Traci Moses said that because the new state law requires the specialist be a school administrator, she has advocated that the individual have a master’s degree, as do the other district’s other administrators.
“I want to make sure our job description meets the statute,” she said. “The liability will be ours. We have to make sure we’re in compliance.”
School Board Member Pam Marshall challenged the need to hire a master’s level person, noting the additional costs could be as much as two teachers or four paraprofessionals.
“There is nothing specified in law pertaining to a degree,” she said.
Board members said neighboring districts have hired various personnel, including their risk management and adult education coordinators, to fill their positions, which are mandated by the state law passed last spring in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland.
Moses said she preferred not to tack on the additional security duties, which include coordinating security and bus drills and overseeing mental health outreach, to the current staff. “I don’t want to add additional duties for them, we want them to provide instructional support,” she said. “We didn’t have anybody I would be comfortable giving an additional duty to at this point.”
Board members joined Marshall in advocating for the change to the job description, which Moses also supported. “I’m willing to change if you guys want to modify the minimum qualifications,” the superintendent said.
The job posting will require a bachelor’s degree but list a master’s degree as a preference. In addition, the description will say that law enforcement certification, and five years’ experience in a security or military role, are preferred.
“If we get an audit criticism we get an audit criticism,” said Board Chair Stacy Kirvin. “I want what works best for our students. This whole thing is set up as prevention, more than as a reaction, to an issue.”
The new post will have a base salary of $64,000, plus benefits and retirement.
Following an appearance by Sheriff A.J. Smith the board also agreed to fund the cost of two school resource officers, at $56,000 each. The county commission had covered the cost of the SROs in the past, but this year the district has pledged to spend a portion of additional “Safe Schools” dollars flowing down from the state to fund them.
Smith said the district’s reimbursement will be for salary and benefits for a beginning hire, but that the actual personnel covering the duties could come from anywhere within the department’s ranks.
He said the department will also provide the fullest extent of its investigative, dispatch and other law enforcement functions towards the schools.
“We’re going to continue to help your training,” he said. “Anything we have at the sheriff’s office is at your disposal. We want our schools to be safe, so parents don’t have to worry about their kids, that there’s highly trained people to protect them.”