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BOE may hire security specialist

November 29, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education is looking to hire a safety and security specialist for the school system, after finding one position could eliminate extra work for other departments.

School officials tentatively are calling it a risk management position, but will not hire someone to fill it until sometime in July, pending funding from the Washington County Commissioners, William Blum, chief operating officer for the system, said Tuesday.

The $60,000 position was in the last school board budget but was cut because the school system didn't get enough money from the county, Blum said.

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"The cost of the position pays for itself just in terms of lost work being minimized," Blum said.

The risk manager would be used to consolidate a number of safety and security tasks more than 100 school officials and 45 principals now handle, Blum said.

The different departments handle everything from trips and falls, security lights and cameras to more serious accidents and developing safety policies.

"It's a complex equation that needs coordination," Blum said.

Unlike the Baltimore city school district, which has its own school police force, Blum said Washington County instead has a good relationship with local police agencies. He said the risk of confusion between law enforcement and the school system would be decreased if only one person handled school safety and security.

However, Dennis McGee, director of facilities management, who currently handles security cameras and related school building safety, said he expects to still handle those tasks if a specialist is hired.

"We want everything that goes with being proactive instead of being reactive," he said.

McGee said the system has a Safe Schools Action Plan, each school has a safety manual, and equipment in schools and on playgrounds is inspected regularly.

Blum and McGee said they would be looking for someone with a background in safety and security, but probably not a police officer, because the position would require a broad knowledge of human resources, facilities, and management issues in addition to security expertise.

They said after looking over risk management applicants from other counties in the state, their education ranges from an associate degree in criminal justice to a bachelor's degree in political science.

The position was written into the school system's five-year master plan.

McGee said the school system started talking about the position after the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. Two students there killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves.

A majority of county students this year who cast ballots during Kids Voting said they didn't feel safe in their schools.

Election Day closely followed the capture of the alleged Maryland snipers and Blum thinks the vote was a result of regional fear.

"They didn't feel safe in their world in relationship to recent events," Blum said.

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