Hillsborough schools seek grant for deputies
The school district will pursue a federal grant with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office that could add two dozen armed resource deputies to local elementary schools.
Just how much of the cost would be federally funded and how much would be paid for by the school district remains unknown.
Sheriff David Gee sent a letter to school board chairwoman April Griffin on Monday about the potential to apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. That grant could fund up to 75 percent of new deputy salaries for three years. Tampa police said they are researching whether to also apply for a similar grant.
The school district has been wrestling with the topic of school security since the December massacre in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 students and six adults dead. Since the shooting, the sheriff’s office and Tampa police have staffed local elementary schools with an armed presence.
But putting a law enforcement officer at all 140 elementary schools permanently – like is in place at middle and high schools – would cost millions of dollars. An effort to do that failed earlier this year when board members voted down the plan that would have used money from the emergency fund.
Now that there may be money available from a grant, the board is willing to at least explore the idea.
“I think this is a great proposal,” board member Stacy White said, adding that 24 extra deputies could be deployed geographically to cover even more than two dozen schools. “We may find this is more than adequate.”
Board member Cindy Stuart wanted to know what the district contribution would be.
“I think that is the key,” she said.
She also has concerns that those deputies would be pulled out of the schools in three years when the grant runs out.
One of her cohorts on the board, Susan Valdes, agreed.
“All of these things are very up in the air,” she said. “It seems like we are juggling 10 different balls. I want to be able to sustain whatever we put in place.”
The deadline for applying is May 22. The matter would come back to the school board once specific costs to the district are identified.
In other matters, the board voted to fire a bus driver and a special education aide for lack of supervision in different incidents.
Vivian O’Neal, the bus driver, was accused of dropping a kindergarten student off at a bus stop without an adult present. Shakira Moore, the aide, was accused of failing to supervise a student at Willis Peters ESE Center.
In addition, the board voted to suspend without pay Dewey Norris, an air conditioning mechanic accused of video voyeurism involving underage girls in Polk County.