TWIN FALLS ID July 11 2018 — The Twin Falls School District will hire 15 unarmed school security paraprofessionals for next school year.
School trustees voted unanimously Monday night to endorse the proposal. It will cost $375,000, the equivalent of about $25,000 per employee, including salary and benefits.
The 2017-18 school year was the deadliest at school campuses in the United States for gun-related incidents, Twin Falls School District Superintendent Brady Dickinson told trustees.
“The recent trend and heightened awareness necessitates schools take proactive measures,” he said.
Every middle and high school in the Twin Falls district already has a school resource officer, contracted through the Twin Falls Police Department.
Each school will have one school security paraprofessional, with the exception of Vera C. O’Leary Middle School and nearby Bridge Academy, which will share one employee.
School security paraprofessionals will be another adult in buildings looking for security issues, identifying students who are having a difficult time and providing an extra set of eyes, Dickinson said.
To cover the expenses, about $77,000 will come from the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program, money previously used to send employees to a safety conference, and $66,000 is available in new money from federal Title IV funds.
The rest of the cost will be covered by cutting 5 percent from all supply budgets across the school district. For a $5,000 budget, for example, it would be a $250 reduction.
“We’re willing to do it because we feel it’s that important of an issue,” Dickinson said about school security.
The plan is utilizing one-time money, Dickinson said, noting sustaining those job positions over many years could be difficult.
The bottom line is “this is really a one-year deal,” he said, which will have to be reevaluated.
Another option for future funding could be examining whether some of the voter-approved supplemental levy money – which comes up for renewal in March 2019 – could be used, Dickinson said.
Twin Falls Police Chief Craig Kingsbury and Capt. Matt Hicks were at the meeting Monday night to show their support of the plan. The police department will provide training for the new school district hires.
At the Twin Falls Police Department, one tenant of the primary mission is to protect those who can’t protect themselves, Kingsbury said, and that includes students.
The police department supports the school district’s plan, Kingsbury said. “I think that this is a good step is to have a visible security person in each school who will, in essence, work side-by-side with our school resource officers.”
School security paraprofessionals will be visible in schools, and will have radios and cell phones to use for communication.
“We want them to be out and about through the day,” Dickinson said. That includes walking the hallways and parking lots, identifying people in the building who aren’t credentialed and directing them back to the school office, checking in with students and monitoring lunchtime activity.
“I think it’s a wonderful commitment,” trustee Mary Barron said. She asked how much training will be involved and for how many hours.
Dickinson said he envisions working with the Twin Falls Police Department to coordinate training, but said he’s not 100 percent sure how many hours it will be.
Secondary programs director L.T. Erickson said there was a similar system for security personnel at a school he worked at in Las Vegas.
The security personnel were invaluable, knew the students and reported quite a bit, he said. “From what I saw, it was a really effective model.”
Dickinson said he thinks the state will provide money for school security personnel in the coming year, but can’t predict what will happen.
If you can find the right employees to fill the jobs, the plan could have potential, said board chairman Bernie Jansen. But at the salary level being offered, he said, school administrators will need to talk up the benefits such as public employee retirement benefits and having three months off each year.
Trustee Todd Hubbard asked if there’s a priority for which schools should get security personnel if the school district can’t find enough to provide one per campus. Dickinson said that’s a good question and something that probably needs to be addressed.