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Richmond schools may hire more security officers

Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 8:43 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 5:09 AM
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The Richmond County School System could soon hire two additional school safety officers to patrol the district’s 36 elementary schools as a way to enhance security and deter intruders.

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Officer Tim Taylor answers a call from dispatch while while patrolling the recess area at W.S. Hornsby K-8 School. The Richmond County Board of Education's finance committee Tuesday approved hiring two school safety officers to patrol elementary schools.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Officer Tim Taylor answers a call from dispatch while while patrolling the recess area at W.S. Hornsby K-8 School. The Richmond County Board of Education's finance committee Tuesday approved hiring two school safety officers to patrol elementary schools.

The move was approved by the Richmond County Board of Education’s finance committee at its monthly meeting Tuesday but must go before the full board Thursday to go into effect.

Currently, every middle and high school has one full-time armed officer on campus, while four zone sergeants periodically patrol the elementary campuses, according to Capt. Theodore Brown, the interim director of the School Safety and Security Department. Two more hires would mean six officers, armed with Glock .40-caliber weapons, would visit the 36 elementary schools throughout the day.

“We’ve got to beef up security everywhere,” board member Frank Dolan said after the meeting. “I do not want to be famous. I do not want Augusta, Ga., on The New York Times getting blasted because we didn’t do everything in our power to prevent something.”

Deputy Superintendent Tim Spivey said the idea to hire more security was in the works months before an intruder entered a Connecticut elementary school in December and shot 20 first-graders and six staff members to death – not a knee-jerk reaction to the incident.

In November, however, school officials said they did not have immediate plans to fill two officer vacancies on the 36-member staff, a team that was already five officers smaller than in 2009, when vacancies from retirements and transfers were not filled.

Spivey said Tuesday the salaries for two new officers would be paid for using the $73,785 made free when the department’s lieutenant, Richard Roundtree, was elected as Richmond County sheriff in November.

The board voted to leave the lieutenant position vacant while Brown acts as the interim director in place of Patrick Clayton, who served as the department’s chief before joining the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office as Roundtree’s chief deputy in January.

Board member Jack Padgett said he supported enhancing security for the schools but wondered how much good six officers could do on 36 campuses.

He said he had hoped to use the money freed up by Roundtree’s resignation to cover shortages already in this year’s budget.

“Unless you have an officer at a school constantly, what’s done?” Padgett asked. “If you’re just responding to what’s happening, it’s already too late.”

Board President Venus Cain acknowledged there would be some schools left unpatrolled at certain times but said any enhancement would help.

“I’d rather go bankrupt and make sure we’re safe than not go bankrupt and have something happen,” Cain said.

Dolan said he and other officials are working on a proposal to present to the board next month about hiring a consultant to evaluate the school buildings and offer suggestions for what can be done to prevent a mass shooting.

He said he’d like to see bullet-proof doors, walls and an access system for all schools that would require all visitors to be buzzed in to enter.

“We want to make these schools as safe as we can possibly make them,” said Dolan, adding he’d like to use money left over from phase III of the special purpose local option sales tax to cover the costs. “It’s awfully unfortunate where we find ourselves. But it’s what we have to do.”

Principals at some schools are also revising site safety plans to make their campus more secure and prevent tragedies.

Monte Sano Elementary School Principal Kathryn Perrin said she instructs teachers to keep their classroom doors locked at all times. She also recently told teachers they are never allowed to have a pupil answer a knock at the door, even if they know it is the principal on the other side.

When a pupil brought to school a toy water gun he received as a gift, she wrote a letter to parents reminding them of the rules and of the sensitive environment students are learning in today.

“We live in challenging times, and things are just so different than they were a long time ago,” Perrin said. “We have to be more vigilant now and more mindful. We have to do everything we possibly can do to add to the safety of the children.”

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Just My Opinion
Just My Opinion 01/16/13 - 12:11 am
Oh, the handwriting is all

Oh, the handwriting is all over this one. The poor officers who get this job will be out the door and on the street as soon as budget cuts are brought up! No matter the person in the article says this is not a knee-jerk most certainly is.

Riverman1 01/16/13 - 05:54 am
More officers may have a

More officers may have a beneficial effect on school discipline, too.

bclicious 01/16/13 - 10:51 am
2 officers! Gimmie a break!

"Two additional school safety officers to patrol the district’s 36 elementary schools". Somehow the math does not add up on this. How much of a dent can 2 additional officers make on 36 schools?

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 01/16/13 - 11:52 am
Worse than worseless

bclicious is correct. This action is a meaningless gesture. More tax money down the drain instead of in the classroom.

JUSTICE187 01/16/13 - 12:27 pm
There needs to be more money

There needs to be more money (this community finds money for everything else....a sky bridge?....really?) for hiring more Police Officers (they are Police Officers, not security guards) in all schools! They need to be better equipped and better compensated. The Officers that work in the schools are in most instances, veterans from other local agencies. They receive advanced/specialized training on top of their traditional law enforcement training. The one's that I know give their everything to educating, protecting and caring for this communities children on a daily basis. They are the lowest paid Officers in this area, but daily protect our most precious commodity! There needs to be change, but real change. Not empty promises, it isn't just about teachers. They would not be able to teach in many instances if it were not for having diligent Police Officers in the schools. And how would the general public, a parent, a Commissioner, a School Board member, a Mayor or anyone know what transpires in the schools if they never come and visit one. The time for smoke and mirrors is over, gang activity is at an all time high, crime is rampant! There are neighboring law enforcement jurisdictions that refer to Augusta as the Wild Wild West! Wake up, let's stop talking about it and do something about it.

corgimom 01/16/13 - 01:37 pm
Little Lamb, you and I are in

Little Lamb, you and I are in perfect agreement on this. If someone really, really, really wants to shoot people on a school campus, they will find a way. And buzzing people in? Then you have to hire someone to watch the door constantly, and what does that do? If someone hides a gun under their clothing, or in a backpack, then what? They still would be buzzed in.
The truth is that there is no way to prevent this. There are too many people that come and go onto a school campus everyday.

And most of those school shootings are from students, not outsiders. Will Augusta ever have a shooting on their campus? Hopefully not, but maybe.

There have been shootings at post offices, McDonalds, malls, movie theaters, cafeterias, work places, universities- but nobody ever says that those places need more security. The truth is that a deranged person will go wherever they can to commit those terrible acts. There is no such thing as perfect safety.

countyman 01/16/13 - 02:11 pm
Justicce187. Splost funds can

Justicce187. Splost funds can only be used for certain things, and the pedestrian bridge is splost money.

JUSTICE187 01/17/13 - 10:07 am
Countyman,,,,I understand

Countyman,,,,I understand that, but the point I was trying to make is money can always be found when someone has an "agenda". Protecting "our" children should be a priority....not an afterthought!

Bulldog1 01/18/13 - 10:27 am
You cannot stop everything you don't like...

If someone is willing to die in order to get to you, you are not going to be able to stop them in the real world. All we can do is make it more difficult for them to succeed. Armed officers in our schools is a program that works to reduce the probability of a successul attack, but the threat will never be reduced to zero. It's a shame that our government doesn't work this hard to stop the annual murder of thousands of children by drunk drivers...

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