Aubrey ISD students and faculty will soon see new police officers on their campuses.
The district plans to hire two new officers as soon as possible to upgrade security at its campuses.
Superintendent David Belding said after meeting with the school board in closed session on March 21 that the district will add two officers to the Aubrey ISD Police Department. The district is accepting applications for the positions.
The board discussed school safety in the executive session but didn’t vote on any measures afterward. District spokeswoman Amy Ruggini said the board will amend the district’s budget to cover the additional expense at an upcoming meeting,
Currently, Chief Scott Collins is the only member of the police department, which the district started in 2013.
Aubrey ISD sent a letter home to parents about the steps officials are taking to keep campuses safe, although there are some measures the district is not making public because officials don’t want to compromise safety protocols.
“We’re continuing to evaluate all possible security measures to make sure that we’re providing a safe and secure environment for our students and staff,” Belding told the Post-Signal last week.
Speaking for the district and not the board, Belding said the addition of two officers allows the district to bring in officers highly trained in tactics and high-pressure situations.
“There’s a level of confidence a police officer will have because of their training and the depth of that training, so I think that was why that was the initial main priority for us, to be able to add two police officers in order to have great coverage at all of our campuses,” Belding said. The district wants to hire them right away, and as soon as they have people selected, the district will determine a start date and figure out where to place the officers, but they will be assigned to campuses with the goal of having a strong presence at all four campuses. “We’re not waiting until August or September,” Belding said.
“We hopefully will have people on board in the next month or so.” The district will use budget money for the officers, but district officials will keep their eyes open for grant possibilities for school safety and security, Belding said. Pay range will be competitive with other schools and police forces in the area.
Aubrey ISD board President Ron Bullock said he wonders why school districts can’t get state or federal dollars to improve their security measures; by contrast, federal and state governments provided funding and actual protection to lessen chances of another terrorist attack after 9/11. He pointed to the huge number of school shootings – more than 200 – that have occurred since Columbine in 1999. “It’s pretty baffling that this sort of situation does not get that kind of response or any changes to try to lessen the number of these shootings that are happening,” Bullock said, adding there’s no “100 percent foolproof answer” to try to protect students, staff, teachers and administrators.
That said, the burden falls on school districts to pay for security measures, and he thought hiring two new officers would be the necessary first step.
Speaking for himself and not for the board, he prefers not arming school staffers, saying he would rather see officers or trained first responders have that responsibility and for staffers to not have “that incredible burden on their back, whether it’s voluntary or involuntary.” The board has taken no official action on arming staffers. The Pilot Point ISD board recently approved a measure to arm select personnel next year. “We just felt like [adding two officers] is what was best for our district at this point in time,” Bullock said.
Collins said the addition of officers means the department will be able to do more programs for the students and staff. “We’ll have increased coverage, a better connection with our community and our students,” Collins said. He said people feel safer when they see an officer who interacts with them on
“Having a marked police car in your front driveway is a huge deterrent,” he said. The district will buy two new police cars and equipment appropriate for officers’ job assignments, Belding said. District officials continue to have conversations about different safety measures, and they opted to increase police presence in the initial phase instead of actively pursuing the school marshal program, “but I’m not saying we won’t ever do that,” Belding said.
“You want to do everything you can to make the environment as safe as possible, but at the same time, it has to be a balanced approached with good, wise decisions,” Belding said.
The Pilot Point ISD board recently voted to arm and train select school personnel and will add a school resource officer, or perhaps two, next year, PPISD Superintendent Dan R. Gist said.
Currently the district contracts with Pilot Point for a single SRO. Belding wouldn’t comment on Pilot Point ISD’s decision, but said, “Every school district is going to have to individually evaluate where they are and as a reflection of the communities they serve as well.”
Collins appreciates the district adding the new officers. He will sit in on the interviews of the officers and prefers to have people who are already certified as a school resource officer and possess that kind of experience, although that is not required.
“They bring the tools that I need to keep this department the very best that we can,” Collins said. The new officers are just the beginning. Collins said, as he wants everyone to feel safe on district campuses.