By Chris Edwards
SPURGER – Spurger ISD Superintendent Kendall Smith made it clear at the district's March board meeting that adopting a policy to allow district personnel to carry firearms needs to be decided soon.
Smith told the board members that it is a time-consuming process to put such a policy in place.
"Before I start building a plan, I want to make sure it is something ya'll want to pursue," he said. Currently there are 172 school districts in Texas permitting personnel to carry firearms, according to Texas Education Agency. The debate about arming teachers and staff has surged in response to recent school shootings, such as the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Texas school districts can choose between two plans, the Guardian Plan and the School Marshal Plan, to authorize employees to carry a firearm on school property, according to TEA. The Guardian Plan has been discussed by SISD administrators. The Guardian Plan allows for the school board to adopt a local policy authorizing the designation of specific employees to carry firearms on school premises, according to a document outlining the different plans from the Texas Association of School Boards.
Smith explained some of the steps necessary to adopt the policy, which include psychological evaluations, firearm training and testing and getting the needed legal paperwork in place. Smith said that under such a policy, employees chosen to carry firearms will be held to a standard of confidentiality.
Board President Carroll Hatton suggested that the superintendent "dig into it a little more to see if we want to pursue it."
Smith said he's already done a lot of research into the policy, but the trustees needed to decide whether or not it was something SISD wants to do.
Security and safety measures were foremost on Smith's mind when he gave his report to the board members at the March 15 meeting.
Smith said a security door, accessible via a keycard, was installed on the back of the elementary school building last weekend. Smith said he chose the location to test the door out due to the high amount of traffic coming and going. He said the door was programmed to automatically unlock at certain times of the day and teachers were given keycards.
The company that installed and programmed the door volunteered to do so at no cost to the district so SISD personnel could see how it works and practice its use before deciding whether or not to outfit the district with the doors.
Smith also reported that he has also been looking into policies of other districts as to the items students are allowed to bring on campus as well as student clothing. He pointed to Woodville ISD's policy of allowing only clear backpacks and its ban on hoodies as possible safety measures to adopt in the future for SISD.
On its agenda for regular business, SISD trustees voted to renew three contracts for the upcoming 2018-19 school year. The contracts of Connie Griffith, Business Manager; Doug Jenkins, Transportation/Grounds Maintenance Supervisor and Leona Callaway,
Child Nutrition Supervisor, each were renewed for one year.
Smith gave the current enrollment figures for the district. There are 197 students enrolled in the elementary school and 173 in the secondary program with a total of 370 pupils. Smith said attendance is at 94.24 percent, and the district is at 353.93 for average daily attendance.
Board members also voted to approve the following:
• The instructional materials allotment and TEKS Certification for the 2018-19 school year.
• The hiring of Mitchell T. Fontenote, CPA, as auditors for the district for the 2017-18 school year.
•The TASB Policy Update 110 Affecting Local Policy BBB, as it pertains to school board member elections and terms.