Let me start by saying I think Ashley Smith Juarez is a hundred percent correct on the hiring of $12.50 an hour armed safety assistants. She and many of us believe it is a terrible idea and think it makes our students and teachers less safe. She has advocated for full fledged police officers to be in our schools instead of the quickly trained glorified security guards. The problem is money. We have enough, barely, for the safety assistants, but only enough for about a third as many police officers.
Mrs. Smith Juarez has been very vocal about it too which is her job and for this she has received push back from several other board members.
From the Times Union:
At a board agenda meeting Tuesday, Cheryl Grymes scolded fellow board member Ashley Smith Juarez for persisting in her questions about the district’s plan to hire and arm about 105 safety assistants in the coming school year.
The safety assistants aren’t law enforcement officers, but they will be armed and equipped like officers. They will be trained in a fraction of the time police officers train, and they will be paid $12.50 an hour, much less than sheriff’s deputies or school police make.
A majority of Duval’s school board — by 6-to-1 — last month voted to create the positions of safety assistants to patrol the perimeters of school campuses and deter or stop armed intruders.
They’re complying with a new state law requiring districts to place law enforcement officers or armed staff, sometimes called guardians, at each public school by August. The law, with some accompanying state funding, was a response to Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland.
Duval officials, like many other district leaders, say that the state has not allotted enough money for large districts to hire police for every school. The safety assistants are an affordable compromise, they say.
But parents and community members are skeptical. Many have emailed or called the board.
Smith Juarez, the only board member who voted against the safety assistants, said she heard from more than 50 parents who are against the idea. She also held two community forums to explain the safety plan, but there was opposition there, too.
A petition critical of the plan on the Change.org website has nearly 1,000 signatures, Smith Juarez said.
Oy vey, first Cheryl Grymes should be chastising anyone. The last time she had an opinion the charter school industry gave it to her. Smith-Juarez isn’t the only board member who is skeptical about the idea, so is at least one board member who voted for it.
Also from the Times Union:
Other board members said they, too, have heard from parents and community members skeptical of the plan, but it is an imperfect solution that they have reluctantly accepted.
“This is an impossible position that the school boards are placed in,” said board member Rebecca Couch, noting that the state legislature gave districts only three months and not enough money to hire and arm responsible people for each school.
“This isn’t a perfect choice for me; I struggle with it,” she said, adding she hopes people signing the petition against Duval’s plan will also contact state legislators. She noted that the state still has a surplus and has spent nearly a $1 billion on private school vouchers, so the legislature can afford to better fund school safety mandates.
Couch also floated the idea of asking local voters to foot the bill, either through a referendum to raise taxes or through a bond issue, but it would take two years before the district saw any money.
We are without a doubt going to miss Mrs. Couch when she is gone. She started slow but for for the last few years she has been a fierce and tireless advocate for our schools. I shudder at the prospect that Gary Chartrand sycophant David Chauncey may replace her in the fall.
Mrs. Smith Juarez is right about the fallibility of hiring the safety assistants but so is Mrs. Couch, when she points out that the district has been put in a no win situation by the state legislature, a legislature that Couch pointed out currently controls a surplus and sent a billion dollars to voucher schools, and is a body that includes Jacksonville’s own Jason Fischer who funneled two million to his donor’s charter school and who is that donor? Why it is Gary Chartrand that is who.
We can get mad at the board for implementing an idea that they themselves aren’t sold on or we can look to Tallahassee and place the blame where it belongs.