Hamilton County school board members learn where the county stands on safety and security
Students are back in school in Hamilton County and in Parkland, Fla. where 17 students were shot and killed during a Valentine's Day massacre. With school safety and security on the minds of teachers and parents across the country, where does Hamilton County stand in terms of school-resource officers, technology, and training?
"I'm proud to say we had our first active shooter training on July 30th," said Kenneth Bradshaw, the school system's chief operations officer. He presented a readiness and safety report to the board of education at their regularly scheduled board meeting Thursday night.
Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson says the county has made enhancements to school safety and security ever since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
"Our administrators this year, in partnership with the Sheriff's department, did some active shooter training, making sure we are prepared with protocol, did some updating with policies procedures and plans in regards with that," Dr. Johnson said.
According to the superintendent, there are 27 SRO's in the county, four vacancies and a budget for 7 more officers, a total of 38 SRO's when fully staffed. Part of the funding for these officers comes from a Safe Schools Act Grant funded by the Tennessee Department of Education, valued at $1,164,040.
Dr. Johnson says at least one officer will be at every middle and high school, while others will jointly patrol the elementary schools.
"We stay in constant conversation with the sheriff's department," he said. "They'll be hired by the sheriff's department, they'll be trained by the sheriff's department."
Dr. Johnson told NewsChannel 9 there is no timeline on when those SRO positions will be filled; it all depends on when the sheriff's office finds the right candidates.
Dr. Bradshaw says those SRO's will fill out a Safety Observation Form to make sure schools are practicing safety procedures correctly. Those forms will have a checklist and schools will receive a score. He told the board every classroom in the county is now equipped with a phone in case of emergencies, and every school is expected to have front door safety upgrades installed by October 5th.
Dr. Bradshaw also talked about safety on school buses, saying the school system is working with Durham to fill bus monitor positions after the deadly Woodmore bus crash in 2016. He also said the school system is looking into giving teachers and coaches stipends to serve as bus monitors on routes that are more problematic.
The board handled several other items on their agenda Thursday night. They began by wishing a farewell to two board members following elections. Joe Galloway opted not to re-run for his seat on the board; Jenny Hill will replace him as the District 6 representative. David Testerman lost his race to Tucker McClendon, who will take on the District 8 seat.
Board members also passed several board policy updates at Thursday nights meeting.
In a first reading of a new policy, board members discussed a high school athletics policy. The board's attorney, Scott Bennett, wrote up a policy that directly dictates how a coach for a high school sport can be hired and compensated. According to Bennett, a part-time employee at a school cannot volunteer to coach at the same school.
Board members are considering to adopt this new policy to change that. It also says volunteers could be paid a stipend to cover travel expenses. The board will vote on the policy at their next meeting on September 20th.