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Flagler School Board Approves Posting Cops at All Elementary Schools Through Year’s End

| February 5, 2013

Flagler County's school superintendent and sheriff are proposing hiring a battalion of deputies to guard the district's 11 traditional public schools. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County’s school superintendent and sheriff are proposing hiring a battalion of deputies to guard the district’s 11 traditional public schools. (© FlaglerLive)

Last Updated: Wednesday, 8:42 a.m.

The Flagler County School Board Tuesday evening approved a plan to immediately hire and post regular, non-SRO deputies at each elementary school, as overtime detail for off-duty deputies, and at $32 an hour per deputy, for the next 75 days of school, at a cost of $84,000. The school district’s share will be $63,000, with the sheriff’s office picking up 25 percent of the cost ($21,000). The sheriff said he could not enact the broader plan, involving actual school resource deputies, until next year, when his budget can enable it.

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“The funding for this year will come from our fund balance,” School Superintendent Janet Valentine said, referring to the school district’s reserves, which stand at between $4 million and $5 million.

That plan passed, 4-1, with Trevor Tucker in dissent.

“I supported the vote because you can’t have it at the one school and not at the others,” board member Colleen Conklin said, explaining her reluctance at approving a plan that lacked the long-term specificity she was looking for. She was referring to Old Kings Elementary having a full-time guard, following a parent’s decision to pay for it of her own pocket. That arrangement can now be brought to an end, since the district will pick up the cost.

Board members and the superintendent have said they’ve been deluged by parents’ concern over security. But when the board asked for public comment this evening, only one parent spoke, to suggest that the board consider installing metal detectors in the schools. Staff aside, the chamber was mostly empty.

Tucker said he voted against the measure because it relies on money from the district’s reserves, and because it seemed to be more of a “knee-jerk reaction.” He considers Flagler schools safe–“If I didn’t, my child wouldn’t be there,” he said; his child attends Bunnell Elementary–and says there will always be a measure of risk anywhere that can’t always be accounted for. Tucker mentioned the case of the survivalist in Alabama who last week kidnapped a 5-year-old child from a school bus. “Are we going to put a deputy on every school bus?” he asked. “How far do we take this? That’s really the next question.” He’s not opposed to the mentorship aspect of cops in schools, but as the board takes on the larger discussion of permanent school-based deputies, Tucker said he was concerned about what programs would have to be cut to accommodate that arrangement.

trevor tucker flagler county school board flaglerlive

Trevor Tucker (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County School Superintendent Janet Valentine also recommended to the school board that actual School Resource Deputies, or SRDs, be hired at each of the county’s five elementary schools next year, doubling the school deputies’ ranks at an additional cost of between $275,000 and $437,000 a year. Sheriff Jim Manfre presented the plan to the board this evening in Bunnell. The board deferred discussing that plan’s specifics to a future meeting.

Manfre has pledged to pick up at least half the additional cost of the permanent school deputies (starting next year), thus reducing the school board’s burden. The cheaper plan entails hiring deputies who’d work only through the school year (what Manfre and the school board are calling “seasonal” deputies), rather than the full 52 weeks a year, as current school deputies do. “Clearly it’s cost-effective to do the part-time deputies,” Manfre said this afternoon, shortly before tonight’s meeting, “and I believe we can train reserve law enforcement officers as well as we train full-time deputies and provide the cost savings to the school district and the county.”

District staff is also recommending security “upgrades” in the district that would add at least another $251,000 to the district’s security costs, and more than double its new security obligations, past half a million dollars-money it does not have budgeted.

Every dollar the school district must spend on additional security now or next year is money it doesn’t have budgeted. “We would just be dipping into our savings,” Valentine said. And the board will have to decide, come next year, what programs or services to cut to meet its new security obligations, assuming it adopts one of the plans being proposed.

“Do we want to look at making cuts at other places?” Valentine asked rhetorically. “But it’s obvious that this is very, very important to parents and this community, because I’ve received a lot of phone calls.” She added: “That’s what we’re going to start talking about tonight. Obviously right now this is not budgeted, so this would come directly out of our fund budget. For next year we need to take a look for how we’re going to cover the cost of those deputies.”

Board member John Fischer proposed floating a ballot measure that would ask voters to foot the bill for additional security through higher taxes. But that would have to be a special election.

janet valentine flagler county schools superintendent

Janet Valentine (© FlaglerLive)

Currently, the cost of six school deputies at four schools is $785,000 (see the contract here). That price tag includes the $77,000 salary of the deputies’ supervisor–Steve Cole–and almost $50,000 for crossing guards at the middle and elementary schools, which the sheriff’s office provides. It also includes operating costs ($82,000) and capital costs ($96,000). The school district pays $287,000 of the total bill. Palm Coast government picks up $103,000. The sheriff’s office picks up the rest.

The additional cost would bring the total bill for deputy security in schools to $1.2 million.

“I believe it is the best return on investment of all the money we spend in the agency,” Manfre said. He said the value of school deputies goes well beyond them being “cops” and preventing crime: they provide drug and alcohol education, gang awareness, mentorship, and above all help identify at-risk students and keep them from taking steps toward criminal behavior. Manfre is stressing that as the program evolves on his watch, it will do so with those goals as a priority. He is not comfortable with a perception that school resource deputies are just a police force inside the schools.

The $1.2 million cost assumes the sheriff and the district agree to hiring five additional full-time deputies year-round, which would cost an additional $437,406. Manfre’s less expensive plan-the deputies who’d work seven and a half hours a day, 196 days a year, as opposed to eight hours a day, year-round-would cost $275,000. But even the lesser plan would keep the total cost of security at close to $1 million a year, an enormous sum for a district with just 11 schools and 13,000 students even when shared between district, sheriff’s office and Palm Coast.

Jim Manfre (© FlaglerLive)

Jim Manfre (© FlaglerLive)

Either way, both the school district and the sheriff would have to contend with budgetary constraints. The sheriff’s budget is itself limited by what the Flagler County Commission approves. But Manfre said he’s had conversations with County Manager Craig Coffey and County Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin about the county eventually providing the additional dollars to cover at least the part-time option. “They are willing to enter into a conversation about the county contributing that portion through the sheriff’s office,” Manfre said, “but obviously they have their own budget constraints. But they didn’t say they wouldn’t be supportive. They can’t commit until the budget process.”

School Board member Trevor Tucker said next year’s plan should be deferred until the budget outlook is clearer. The board’s focus this evening was on how to finish out this year with proper security.

The security “upgrades” cover just three schools so far, with more ahead. Some $45,000 in upgrades are recommended for Old Kings Elementary, including modifications to the reception area, the installation of security cameras, and fencing improvements. Similar improvements costing $42,000 are recommended for Bunnell Elementary. Improvements at Flagler Palm Coast High School would run to $89,000, with better fencing accounting for more than half the cost. The district is also recommending a $75,000 district-wide radio communication system.

“The group would like to see it more difficult to go from a lobby area into the school,” Mike Judd, the senior director for facilities, told the board this evening. He refrained from giving details about the three schools’ vulnerabilities, after they were visited by a safety team in recent weeks, saying that advertising the vulnerabilities could lead to their exploitation. But he said that parents would eventually be forced into using specific entrances, such as lobbies, instead of being allowed to use any entrance (as at Flagler Palm Coast High School) once they’re on campus. “The entrance to Matanzas is a problem,” he added, referring to the entrance to the campus, which would be altered at “substantial” cost. That part of the proposal was not up for board approval this evening, as it is still ongoing, Valentine told the board this evening. “At this point the things that they’re putting in work order form are the things we can budget,” she said. “Anything major would have to be come part of a five-year plan.”

The security revamp is being prompted by the Newtown, Conn., school shooting on Dec. 14 that claimed the lives of 20 elementary school students and one teacher. The week after school resumed after Christmas, Laura Lauria, a parent at Old Kings Elementary, hired a deputy to stand guard at Old Kings for each eight-hour day, with her own money (close to $12,000 for just two months).

The school board approved the donation and ratified the deputy’s presence, but the move also prompted the board to find a solution quickly that would eliminate the involvement of private money for public schools security. At least two board members were uncomfortable with Old Kings having added security, while other schools remain unguarded.

Valentine had said earlier this afternoon that the hiring of security at the five schools for the remainder of this school year could be done with overtime hires at the board’s expense (each deputy would cost $32 an hour, or $1,200 a week) similar to the private hire of the deputy at Old Kings. The board could still decide in the near future to immediately implement one of the plans the sheriff is proposing, which would be more costly, and would entail hiring the extra deputies onto the sheriff’s ranks. But even if the board did so, it’s not likely to work: the sheriff must still operate within the constraints of the current budget, making the extra hires impossible–unless the county commission enacted an emergency budget amendment on the sheriff’s behalf: that’s not been discussed.

Rather, the sheriff is readier to contribute 25 percent of the costs of hiring extra-duty, or overtime, deputies for the remainder of this year, Manfre said, “through cost savings that we have already accomplished.”

Between the sheriff’s contribution and the year being half over, that gap-closing option would limit the district’s costs considerably, and to less than $100,000.

The meeting began at 6 p.m. at the Government Services Building in Bunnell. It is open to the public.

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28 Responses for “Flagler School Board Approves Posting Cops at All Elementary Schools Through Year’s End”

  1. Stevie says:

    What would the cost be if the children stayed home and learned via internet?

    Who could shoot them then?

  2. Yellowstone says:

    $1.2 Million!!?? Ya ain’t gonna get away with it . . .

    Let’s think outside the box here. Suppose instead you put video cameras and electronic door locks at all viable entrances and exits. Parking lots and anywhere else on that campus.

    Appoint an administrator to be in charge and monitor all access into/out of the building and throw in the hall activity as well. Commerciial businesses have been doing this for twenty years.

    This way you can record and control who went in and who went out – and who allowed it.

    • Magnolia says:

      I believe they had these things at Sandy Hook Elementary. Somebody recognized the boy and let him in. How do you prevent that?

  3. confidential says:

    “Security upgrades” should be fine to be out of the schools capital improvements funds, that has been always pretty well funded in Florida by law….as was to benefit not only the students but most important those builders contracted to build schools.

    Move all windows to become roof to ceiling skilights. No more windows on walls. Alls access to school building by ID card only and bullet proof doors. Surveillance cameras on the exterior of the school and motion detection lights as well. A strict program to be implemented of access to school of individuals with previos meeting appointment with ID presented thru a main entrance with remote acces, only. A little inconvenience is worth to preserve our students lives. That will sure save in posted police officers after a while.

  4. Bret says:

    This would be the first GOOD use of Flagler Tax payers money in years. How about remove those SPY camera’s at every intersection and use that money towards this.

    • Mike L says:

      The red light cameras are put up by a private company after being approved by the city. The city gets a percentage, while the company gets the majority of the money being that they paid for them in the first place. Palm coast does nothing but profit on the cameras, however little that profit may be. Basically, those cameras didn’t come from tax payer dollars….

  5. Dante says:

    Wait a minute, Sheriff Flemming returned over one million dollars in savings to the County every year. Why can’t Manfre use that money instead in his budget rather than spend like a drunken sailor. Didn’t Manfre run as a fiscal conservative? Isn’t it ironic that Manfre’s last school liaison was caught pissing in the park and now wants to piss our tax money away.

    Education and parenting is the key to preventing wayward youth not armed deputies. All this does is place more burden on fixed income retirees in this city who are already in the red for higher utility, electric and Flagler County taxes. There is no proof that all this security will prevent another terrorist attack. What’s next, armed guards on school buses too.

    Instead of this County creating jobs and bringing in industry It is settling to know that we added 5 high paying jobs to the employment figures.

    We received a lot of calls from parents – please child.

    • wild bill says:

      @Dante. Yeh, like the Global Outreach Charter that the county spent hundreds of thousands on in aquisition to get them here & fines when they left. How ’bout just making better decisions. Every “magic bean’ salesman has it made here. Empty promises of jobs & bringing more people have been the demise of this town. Everyone forgets about Ginn, E-R, & now Global (all in the same spot even) and the millions wasted. Until the residents actively participate (yes, even the fixed income) nothing will change. Did you sit through this meeting tonight? Entirely? probably not. Funny how the finacially strapped still find ways to buy beer, cigarettes, and energy drinks while their kid(s) are on reduced lunch, or worse yet don’t even get lunch, but still complain about taxes & decisions being made- that they could’ve been apart of, but chose not to. Priorities are skewed all around.

      There’s no proof this type of security WON’T prevent or at least reduce another incident. Are you willing to make that call for your kid? Ask the parents of the survivors in Newtown & get back to us.

      • Anonymous says:

        I dont think the County schools spent “hundreds of thousands on in aquisition” at the global outreach charter school??? As too the other things that faild at the airport well at least the $$$ out there did not come from our local tax $$. It was ALL airport funds that either it generated or in federal grants NOT tax dollars at the local level.

  6. Alex says:

    The $1.2 mil “solution” is the best, much better then solution that cost no money. :)

  7. RNYPD says:

    Education, vigilance and volunteers is the best solution, much better solution that cost 1.2 mil.

  8. Nancy N. says:

    All this security to turn our schools into fortresses to keep the the boogie man out ignores the fact that the most likely way for a gun to get into one is in the hands of a student or staff member that is supposed to be there in the first place! Look at the several recent school shootings in the past couple weeks in this country…all were committed BY STUDENTS.

    We are so reactionary when it comes to kids’ safety. A mass shooting happens in a mall and we don’t march in the streets demanding that the mall fortify itself and install metal detectors and screen everyone who enters. Yet the same sort of freak event happens at a school and we want to turn our schools into armageddon bunkers.

    I don’t want money taken away from actually educating kids to feed the hysteria and panic.

    The funny thing about this entire debate is the parallels with the discussions of public safety after the terror attacks of 9/11, Homeland Security was established and most people have become very comfortable with them reaching into all sorts of locations and events because there is general acceptance that when the next terrorist attacks, it could be anywhere, not just at an airplane. Yet after a mentally ill person has attacked here, the response is the opposite – protect the schools! Nobody seems to want to acknowledge that the next psycho may attack a grocery store, or a nightclub. They act like it’s all about the schools. But it’s NOT all about the schools…just like it’s not all about airplanes. That’s why we need to attack this problem via gun control, to protect ALL potential targets, instead of just locking each individual target down after someone attacks it.

    • flynne says:

      School is a requirement unlike going to a mall or theater where at least you can carry a gun legally. One reason why there’s SRO’s in the other schools is because the threat can come from within, but the elementary schools were left out. They shouldn’t have been removed to begin with, then there would be no disillusion everyone is freaking out all of a sudden. Kids learn from the parents & kids around them.

  9. Concerned says:

    So much for not spending money. Wasn’t he suppose to cut back … isn’t that why he cut back salaries and fired two Majors? To cut back… what a loser.

  10. Flaglerresident says:

    Seems like a waste of money and salaries that are above reason. Are we then going to have officers at baseball games, pal football and Publix? You’ll have my vote in 2014 Trevor, you’re the only one there with common sense.

  11. Joe says:

    I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
    Nelson Mandela

  12. PJ says:

    This is the one time I don’t mind if you add this one to my tax bill, keep cops in our schools…..PJ

  13. Bob Z. says:

    I am getting sick of hearing people talk about schooling children at home since very few parents have the knowledge and/or time to do so successfully. Besides, there are already too many stupid people so why do we want to make more!? People don’t give teachers enough credit for what they do: the vast majority of the intelligent people I know, and in general, went to public schools.

    • Bob says:

      The VAST majority of “intelligent” people that went to public schools is about 0.32 % of all the others who attended public schools. Don’t give me that crap about given teachers credit. Their liberal BS and socialist agenda’s is what has corrupted our young and helped them to be the “dumbest” generation in American history.

  14. Stevie says:

    If this latest move by the school board isn’t enough, they should keep trying until they succeed. If the schools don’t protect the children they should be shut down.

    Just do for our kids what the President does for his even if some programs need to be cut to find the money, else you will get sued into submission.

  15. Dante says:

    Sadly enough, the hen pecked School Board in all it’s majesty sided with an ill conceived and thought out security plan involving Sheriff Manfre, Janet Valentine and members of the School Board. Oh! Yes, I forgot, policy maker and extraordinaire, Laura Lauria. It does nothing in it’s infinite wisdom to protect children in or outside the school. It is nothing more than a band aid approach to satisfy mass hysteria at the expense of additional wayward taxes which was ill conceived and set in motion by a so called generous benefactor. The fix was in to promulgate this ill conceived plan by way of a Quid Pro Quo (is a Latin phrase that means literally something for something. It is usually used in financial terms to indicate a type of agreement). The tax payer has been snookered!

    “In Response to the Shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School
    Position Statement of the Interdisciplinary Group on Preventing School and Community Violence
    Endorsed by 183 organizations and more than 200 prevention scholars and practitioners”

    Balance – Communication – Connectedness – Support

    “Inclinations to intensify security in schools should be reconsidered. We cannot and should not turn our schools into fortresses. Effective prevention cannot wait until there is a gunman in a school parking lot. We need resources such as mental health supports and threat assessment teams in every school and community so that people can seek assistance when they recognize that someone is troubled and requires help. For communities, this speaks to a need for increased access to well integrated service structures across mental health, law enforcement, and related agencies. We must encourage people to seek help when they see that someone is embroiled in an intense, persistent conflict or is deeply troubled. If we can recognize and ameliorate these kinds of situations, then we will be more able to prevent violence.”

  16. Sherry Epley says:

    Again My comment is:

    To even consider armed guards in our schools is outrageous. THINK about the message this sends, the impact it makes on young children when they are forced to walk by armed guards on their way to what should be a secure, sacred place of learning and interacting with other children. The myrid of lessons learned in school are far reaching integral parts of the foundations of who we become. Young students are, as they should be, human sponges . . . absorbing all input coming their way from every source. Do we really want the creators of the future civilizations on this planet to spend their childhood incarcerated, surrounded by armed guards “for their protection”. Exactly what crime have they committed?

    Having armed guards any place is a slippery slope. . . there are always more and bigger guns. . . where does it all end?

    I will absolutely vote against increased taxes for making a fortress out of our schools! We need to remove guns from our society, not add to them.

  17. Karen Persan says:

    Not very well thought out. Rather than hire a tired deputy who has worked all week long and is now not quite as alert, not quite as quick, to watch over the children on overtime, why not hire 11 new full time deputies (at regular ay, not time and a half!), and create 11 NEW jobs in our county? just think, that could be 11 more homes purchased, 11 families paying taxes, 11 families shopping, etc.

  18. deana carmen says:

    Those of you who are complaining about having deputies in the schools probably do not have children in the school system these days. When you hear about a tragedy like Sandy Hook you of course wonder if it could happen here. I am thankful that the school board and the Sheriff’s Office are willing to think outside the box. The ideal situation would be for the county to fund more positions for the Sheriff, but I don’t see that happening right now as we are in the middle of the budget year. They are doing the best they can with what is available right now.

    Personally, I think some of you are just using this terrible situation to once again slam the new Sheriff. At least he and the school board are trying to do what is best for our children. You all should be ashamed of yourselves. If, God forbide something like that happened here, you all would be here online complaining that not enough was done.

  19. Justice For All says:


    Before you go scolding opinions on this subject and looking for kudo’s for whoever whom, you should read this report: and after you read and digest it’s meaning, maybe then perhaps, you’re the one left with egg on your face.

    I still feel that this was a poorly thought out plan with no forethought on our children’s overall well being. It speaks volumes more of a lack of knowledge from our School Board, Superintendent and Sheriff that lined up to pass this proposal which was put in motion by a selfish mother.

    ” A balanced approach to preventing violence and protecting students includes a variety of efforts addressing physical safety, educational practices, and programs that support the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students.” Not armed guards! Or paranoia run amok.

    • deana carmen says:

      No egg being worn here.. Great article, but did they actually give any suggestions? It spoke of treating the mentally ill, that will take years to rebuild the damage done to the treatment of the mentally ill in this country. The need exists NOW! It is easy to sit in a think tank and write a thesis on what shouldn’t be done or what is being done wrong. The real solutions come from people who are in the field in the middle of the crisis who are trying to find the answer using the tools they have at hand. In this case they are the school board and police officers who are trying to help this community. And, whether you like what they are doing or not, they are fulfilling the last line of your quote…”programs that support the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students”…by having an armed guard standing by to deter someone disturbed enough to harm children. You know, that school board meeting was open to the public. If you had a better idea, maybe you should have spoken up.

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