When summer school opened with 350 students at Rymfire Elementary Monday, a Flagler County Sheriff’s school resource deputy was on duty, as has been the case in previous summer sessions. The deputy wasn’t there because the school district had originally planned to request the presence, but because Sheriff Rick Staly ordered that a deputy be posted there and the district be billed for it, whether the district wanted it or not.
“My youth services commander was told they did not want or need deputies,” Staly said late this afternoon. “I told my youth services commander, Cmdr. Jason Neat, that that was totally unacceptable, and I would deal with this. That’s also when I ordered him to immediately start staffing the summer schools.” He said the cost would “certainly” be less than $2,000.
As late as early afternoon on Monday, Thomas Wooleyhan, the district’s safety specialist, was writing the sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge–with whom Wooleyhan had been negotiating next year’s School Resource Deputy, or SRD, contract for weeks–to tell him a deputy was not required by law at summer session.
“So it is the district’s decision, it is not state law,” Wooleyhan wrote Strobridge a little after noon. “I would like to clarify, if FCSO would like to have someone to float in the schools and in the area, that would be greatly appreciated, however, we are not required to hire law enforcement based on the rule attached.”
Wooleyhan was responding to Strobridge, who’d written him less than half an hour earlier after finding out that “summer school is in session and there are no SRDs at the school.” Strobridge continued: “It is very concerning as school is in session and with the recent incidents, no provisions have been made for an SRD to be present. In the past, arrangements were made prior to the start to staff the schools on overtime.” Strobridge told Wooleyhan a deputy had already been dispatched, and that the Sheriff’s Office would bill the district.
Then Staly found out, and penned a letter to School Board Chairman Trevor Tucker, copying the rest of the board on it. Tucker would have gotten the letter around mid- to late afternoon. “In light of the recent tragedy in Uvalde, Texas I find this to be an astonishing decision to save a few thousand dollars,” the sheriff write, citing Wooleyhan’s email as confirmation that the district had no intention to use deputies.
Conceding that the district makes its own policies for after-school safety assignments, “the District’s unilateral decision, made without the benefit of the expertise provided by the Sheriff’s Office is short-sighted,” Staly wrote. “The lack of an immediate law enforcement response creates an unnecessary risk to both your staff and the students attending summer school programs. Last year the District agreed to use and pay for School Resource Deputy’s at the summer school program. This was a prudent and proper decision then and should have been this year too.”
Wooleyhan in his email had justified last year’s presence of deputies in terms of numbers: there’d been “over 1000 students attending our summer school sessions” as students were catching up after Covid absences. He returned to the student-to-staff ratio there in a brief presentation to the School Board during an afternoon workshop today, when he was discussing the status of next year’s contract with the sheriff.
He credited Strobridge for currently reviewing the policy potentially to “strengthen it a little bit,” but he reiterated that it was up to school board policy to consider the ratio of staff members to students and other “safety measurables” to determine the need for a deputy or a safety officer during summer school hours. “It’s not in our contract but it is in school board policy,” Wooleyhan said.
“We don’t have to provide it,” he repeated at the workshop today, but as in such extra curricular activities as football games that draw larger crowds, “we have to provide possibly some sort of law enforcement.” He said he’s been working with summer school staff to find out the number of students attending. “We do have a school resource deputy that is on on that campus right now.” But he did not get into the tension between his office and the Sheriff’s Office over the matter, nor did any of the school board members ask him about it.
The sheriff said in his letter to Tucker that he’d ordered Strobridge to “ensure summer school classes are included in next year’s contract to address these concerns or I will not sign the contract.” Meanwhile he said he’d “not allow the District staff to make a decision that could compromise the security and safety of students. Seconds matter in active shooter incidents, which can happen anywhere and at any time.” So he would bill the district for the deputies regardless.
It was not clear today from Wooleyhan’s comments to the board or an interview with a district spokesman how the district went from Wooleyhan’s position in his email to Strobridge to going along with what amounts to the sheriff having to impose his deputies on the district, rather than, given the current climate, being invited in as a matter of course. A request late in the day to interview Wooleyhan was unfilled (it was after hours, a spokesman said).
“If there was some internal discussion, I’m not privy to that,” Staly said. “I can only tell you I wasn’t going to let kids go unprotected at a school to save a couple of thousand bucks, if that much. And they’ve always done it in prior years, so I don’t know what the change was this year. But I wasn’t going to tolerate it.” He said the schools will be staffed with non-overtime deputies wherever possible.
The session at Rymfire runs through July 15, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Another session opens at Matanzas High School, for older students, on July 6, running through July 23, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. That one will potentially have 140 students, according to Wooleyhan.
Jason Wheeler, the district spokesman, stressed the collaborative relationship that’s prevailed over the years–and continues to prevail–and said there was no interest in tit-for-tat deconstructions.
“What I can tell you,” he later wrote in an email, “is that conversations were happening between Tommy Woolyhan and staff with FCSO for the last couple of months. We reached out to the Office of Safe Schools to find out what our requirements are for summer learning programs and that was the information Tommy had. Our District Safety Specialist and FCSO staff then began working on how to get to a solution and had been in contact for the last few weeks as the school year was winding down. We were practically there at the time the email was sent by the Sheriff. As I stated to you, and as the Superintendent expressed in her communication, the bottom line is when our Extended School Year opened up yesterday morning, an SRD was on campus.”
Superintendent Cathy Mittlestadt, who had also received the sheriff’s email, wrote Tucker and the rest of the board at 5:13 p.m., shortly after receipt of the Staly letter. She and Tucker had met earlier for a scheduled meeting. “I asked her about it, she said they were taking care of it,” Tucker said today of the Staly letter. “all I know the district is working with the sheriff to make sure we have adequate coverage.”
Mittlestadt sought to reassure board embers that “the safety and well-being of all of our students and employees is of the utmost importance to us and a top priority when providing educational opportunities.” She said Wooleyhan had been working with campus administrators to evaluate needs over the summer, but that “in comparison to the size and length of the summer program for 2020-21, this year’s educational opportunities will have fewer students and staff in attendance. However, in light of recent events, we recognize the FCSO’s expertise in providing a safe learning environment and are working towards having our programs staffed appropriately during our summer learning.”
Summer School Programs – Lack of On-Campus Security
Way to go, Rick. A small amount of common sense goes a long way
Opening the schools without security was a moronic decision. Having a pee pee measuring contest with the Sheriff over safety was almost as dumb. The biggest bit of idiocy was the school district mouthpiece saying that having an assigned SRO/SRD wasn’t going to be provided because it wasn’t legally required.
Fran M says
Like very much how Sheriff Staly took control of the situation and did the right thing. Hats off to the Sheriff.
This is Wooleyhan’s first year as District Safety Specialist, with no prior experience in that field. It sounds like he’s needs some help with his decision making and a better understanding of being a Safety Specialist!
In my opinion, if there is 1 child or 1,000 children. A life saved is worth having a SRD in that school whether it’s Summer School or not. Thank you Sheriff Staly
I like Staley, but if he feels so strongly about it, he should offer to flip the bill from his own budget….since it’s only a few thousand dollars. Trying to strongman the school district by threatening to not sign next year’s contact seems unhelpful.
It’s a shame that things have come to this and we need to anticipate an “active shooter” situation. It’s a sad state of affairs, but I I certainly have confidence in the Sherrif Dept.and am sure they are much better prepared than law enforcement in Uvalde.
IMHO, it’s time folks got over their 2nd amendment right and focused on the good of the country and our children. I’m fairly certain that AR-15’s and other assault rifles were not available at the time of the authoring of the 2nd amendment. People do have the right to keep and bear Arms, just not all arms, AR-15;s , machine guns and rocket launchers should be out of reach for civilians.
Richard Smith says
Well said Duncan…
City Councilman Ed Danko says
Rick Staly is America’s sheriff! Thank you for protecting our children.
The dude says
How’s that boycott coming along Ed?
Rocket launchers haha maybe you feel comfortable calling the sheriff daddy and asking him to save you but it won’t be funny when you realize they care more about themselves then you.
If Staley is so concerned about the safety of children, maybe he should do away with the fee and just do what is right? Seems like it’s all about the money. Just do your job and protect the citizens on Flagler county.
Florida Girl says
Flagler County Schools AND transportation have no interest in protecting their students from violence from other students. Our family had three situations where law enforcement had to be called this year, and one of those times my granddaughter almost sexualy assaulted because her bus driver did NOTHING to help her or protect her, and still has her job! What makes you think they care if there were an active shooter? Thank you FCSO for having the ability to do the right thing in this swamp of a school system.
What a cluster F … this is how mess happens … first off wooleyan was literally just a dean last year and in my opinion has no experience what so ever is school safety as well as physical security expertise … and there are kids at other campuses as well not just rymfire . They always cut corners until the crap hits the fan then they will point fingers at everyone but themselves … we continue to live in this bubble as if it can’t happen here because we are a small district . If I was the sheriff I would use this moment to force them to fix alot of their crap including policies or just pull the damn. Deputies and let them experience the guardian program and let them experience the lack of respect and presence having to deal with a lawless environment..bunch of damn idiots
I’m not sure where to go with my concern but not ALL school doors in Flagler are locked during school hours! I can’t speak about all but my grand daughter goes to BTES and anyone can walk right in through the front door leaving staff vulnerable and there after the students. This is an easy fix and I hope is addressed before school resumes in August
Paul S says
Thank you Sheriff Staly.
My children are adults and live elsewhere. Regardless, I am angry we have not taken the steps to deal with the root causes of these incidents and have not acted more effectively in mitigating incidents when they do occur.
Perfection is the goal and ideal. Reality dictates it is seldom achieved.
Hardening targets is critical. Police & sheriff presence is a great step. Arming interested and willing staff with proper training and support is another option. In past decades many teachers were veterans or retired sworn officers. There are also typically many with excellent backgrounds, training, experience, skills in the community willing to be vetted and volunteer.
Dealing with the failures of society and our twisted culture is a seemingly impossible task but needs attention.
Gun laws fail and restrictions are bound to be a complete failure as so many of these incidents prove if one investigates the incidents in detail vs just following sensational headlines and main stream media. We have laws. Some could be adjusted tighter or looser with benefit without infringing on good lawful citizens. Regardless, laws will never address the social, political and cultural ills we currently are experiencing.
Laws are only as good as those writing, following and enforcing them (including the courts And citizens supporting police & our legal system).
School administrators need to get serious about the safety issue and not drop the ball. Thank you Sheriff Staly for not letting them drop that ball. Citizens should be demanding the same.
What a jerk
No Guns in Schools
What is wrong with these people
Paul S says
As you know, parents were threatened with arrest while kids called for help or bled out on the floor and police waited.
I am competent with a firearm. Better than many police & Sheriffs since before age 18. Gun in hand, or not, I go in. I have skills, can improvise and he’ll, will take a bullet to save your child. Even if it is in the back from a sworn officer trying to stop me.
The lessons are clear. Time matters. Laws don’t.
Just because you think bad people or criminals cannot Always get a weapon doesn’t make it so.
When I grew up my younger sister was on a HS rifle team in and shot on campus, many teachers were ex combat veterans or retired police. And I know many who were not but quite capable.
Thinking like you do is thinking like the 18th Amendment worked well & should be reinstated. Or that the war on drugs has worked (cannot keep them out of high security jails, smh).
But hey, blast every finite detail on the media for weeks, use the shooter’s name, put up gun free zones signs, demean good lawful citizens, let criminals off easy, let the mentally ill wander the homeless encampment, watch as society dismantles the family structure, courts go lenient to the point of insanity, kids and adults slip though all the legal protections and gun laws afforded us.
Sure. Gun free will work. Anyone care to bet their life or that of their children? Some will. And some will get lucky
Please stay away from our schools and children with your guns, you sound fanatical
The dude says
So instead we end up betting our children’s lives on guns everywhere. That doesn’t seem to be working out too good.
A full swat team refused to go in and stop a gunman in Texas, what do you think a single resource officer with a handgun is going to solve? Get real!!!
R. S. says
Precisely! Perhaps we should give a peaceful approach a chance!
Fredrick Jr. says
Let’s ask the shooter nicely to “please stop shooting people and put down your gun”. That will work………Come on man.
Courage & Commitment says
Actually, ONE Border Patrol Officer with a gun ran in and took the psycho out. He did it by himself without SWAT. You just need men with COURAGE and COMMITMENT to get things done.
Thank You Sheriff Staley for thinking of the children first.
This is false. Please check your sources.
Confident in Staly says
I will put up one of Stalys Deputies against any other in the Country. I think He Vetts his guys for this massive responsibility. I wait in line to vote for Mr. Staly Every election… And My kid is in the Flagler school system, I sleep well at night knowing we got the best in the business in our local schools.
Jack Howell says
What a Faux pas on behalf of Thomas Wooleyhan the school district’s safety officer. In the wake of the Uvalde, Tx mass shootings to stick his head in the ground with the belief that the Summer school program for Flager students is totally safe and the risk of not employing Flagler County SROs to protect these students is an acceptable risk is acceptable is beyond belief. This is a major error in judgment by Mr. Woolehan. I wonder just what his expertise is? So far, I’m not impressed! He was willing to put our students’ lives at risk.
I am a professor of Criminal Justice employed by several colleges and universities. My area of expertise is in Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorism/Counterterrorism, and Homeland Security at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The other day, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about Right-Wing Extremists as a potential threat to the public in the next few months. The Right-Wing Extremists are looking to make a statement and WE ARE ALL IN THEIR CROSS HAIRS! I have the utmost of confidence in this assessment by DHS based upon their collective insights as to the pulse of the nation. Simply stated, we must be diligent. That would also apply to the Flagler County school system as well as to area houses of worship.
Big Mike says
Thank you Sheriff! My two girls are attending Rymfire summer program. Shame on the school board and district.
It is clear from the documented statements made by Thomas Wolleyham, the Flagler School District safety specialist, that he is equating school students as merely numbers to play with in his budgeting rather than the breathing human beings they actually are. And it is even more concerning that despite the growing mass school shooting risk and the very recent mass school shooting in Uvalde, Tx that he had zero capacity between his ears to fathom the level of danger he was placing students and school faculty members in with his outrageous decision based on dollars alone NOT to request school resource officers from the sheriff’s office to be in Flager County schools for summer school. I have one simple question for the school superintendent and the school board. Is this the type of individual YOU have placed your trust in, and what you expect from your “safety specialist”? One would think a person in such a position would be prioritizing SAFETY, not money! What kind of lunatic in such a “safety” position puts the actual safety of school kids as well as teachers and other school personnel in such jeopardy by completely disregarding their safety and looking at the kids as numbers and playing such irresponsible games like he is playing with their lives in order to save a few dollars in the school budget? We expect much better than this, and especially right now in light of our heightened stress and attention to safety issues due to the most recent school tragedy. If Wolleyham cannot even comprehend that fact in making critical safety related decisions, he needs to go for one thing, and the school district has some explaining to do regarding this employee’s priorities and expectations!
Paul S says
Great questions & assessment.
Do what I say! says
Command and Humility is not a good definition of this Sheriff. Maybe bully?
‘It is better to be Safe, than sorry!’
Very important to have at least one SRD
on both Rymfire & Matanzas campuses.
It does make a difference…
Get Over Yourself says
What an absolute crock of you know what this is!! If Rick was so concerned all he had to do was reach out and share his concerns, pick up the phone, stop by for a visit with district leadership. No, instead he resorts to showboating and acting like he’s God. Let’s not forget law enforcement sat outside those classrooms and that school and did NOTHING while 19 babies and 2 teachers were slaughtered! ! You can’t have a police presence at every single event that’s not realistic. Are you going to have them at every PTO/SACs meeting? How about all afterschool clubs, theater rehearsals, band practices, every athletic practice and game? If Rick really cared about kids he’d demand that Stewart March actually provide services to Flagler County residents like a day treatment program for kids and young adults in crisis. If Rick really cared he’d demand more social workers, guidance counselors and therapists to get to the root cause of these issues. If Rick really cared, he would have reached out as a collaborative partner instead of jumping on the bandwagon and bashing our schools. Hope he enjoyed pounding his prideful chest with this crap. Other than that move along with your showboating, grandstanding self – shame on him using this tragedy in that way. Remember character is what you do when no one is watching!
Morgan Monaco says
Deputy have absolutly no autority in school. They are not necessary in school; bad things happened before, still happened today & will next week….next month !…..
I wouldn’t trust the sheriff’s office to protect my kids either. Let’s get some real professionals at the schools so the kids can honestly be safe and have someone to protect them.