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Lead School Safety Guardian Salary Moved to Supplement

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Legislative changes may make the hiring process more efficient

In an effort to ease the job of the Lead School Safety Guardian and avoid the cost of replacing someone in that position, the Hernando County School Board approved shifting the pay structure from a salary to a supplement.

“In the event they are not able to meet the expectations that we expect from a Lead Guardian, sometimes we don’t recognize that until later on that they’re maybe not fit for a leadership position,” Angel Pagan, assistant director of safe schools, told the board at a May 28 meeting. “We can’t put that person back into a Guardian position. They would be unemployed if we chose not to renew the contract at the end of the year.

“By changing it over to a stipend, it gives an opportunity, because they may not meet the leadership expectations but was certainly a good Guardian. So we’d want them back, just not in the position that we thought they would be a good fit.”

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The idea is that someone could be promoted from within to Lead Guardian without the district having to pay to replace the outgoing person holding that job. Plus, it wouldn’t leave the district shorthanded in the middle of a school year.

Also discussed at the meeting was the issue of getting enough Guardians trained to fill out the district. There are currently eight, with five more going through the training this month. A sixth trainee did not pass the background check.

The point of contention was why there can’t be a new candidate in case someone doesn’t make it through the background check. Board member Shannon Rodriguez questioned why there is no waiting list.

“It would be beneficial to have a waiting list, but because of the way the state mandated us to do background checks, not only from the school district but also from the sheriff’s office, there’s two separate background checks,” Pagan said. “By the time all background checks are done, we’re almost at the end of completion of going into training next month.

“This information we didn’t find out until the beginning of May. So it would be very difficult to try to put someone in as a replacement and attempt to push that background check as quickly as we would to go forward with the training in June.”

Rodriguez said she had been personally contacted by a qualified candidate who attempted to sign up but was turned away because the district had its six trainees lined up.

“Whether it be him or whoever else you have that showed interest, that’s odd to me; we’re not able to be more proficient on when one steps out and it didn’t work, we can’t get another one in quick enough to be able to make this all happen,” Rodriguez said. “We have the finances apparently budgeted for six, but we’re going to go into the school year with five. To me we’re just hurting ourselves or hurting our students.

“I think there has to be a better way and a quicker way. It’s something we have to look at to make that happen.”

Pagan noted that starting in July, the recently passed Florida House Bill 1473, which revised the requirements for Guardians, will make the hiring process significantly easier.

The problem is the 144-hour training course run by the sheriff’s office is only offered in June. Superintendent John Stratton asked if the vetting process could begin earlier.

“That’s absolutely what we’re looking at, but these last applicants we had, we actually went through the whole list and we had our numbers,” Pagan said. “With the new state law come July we’ll be in a better position because they won’t necessarily have to go through the academy for School Guardians if they’re prior law enforcement within the last four years.

“There’s some requirements behind it, but we are looking at prior law enforcement and military. That might qualify out-of-state candidates that we might be able to look at.”

Chris Bernhardt
Chris Bernhardt
A resident of Spring Hill since 1986, Chris graduated from Springstead High in 1999 before moving on to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Central Florida. In summer of 2003 he joined the staff at Hernando Today, working at the paper for 11 years as a sports reporter, the last three as sports coordinator in charge of the paper’s sports coverage. After an initial 3-year stint with Hernando Sun, he spent four years as a staff sports reporter at the Citrus County Chronicle. Follow on X @cpbernhardtjr.
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