Arlington school district may upgrade security at elementary schools

ARLINGTON — The school board’s agenda for Thursday night’s meeting included career certification announcements and administrative changes that will touch the lives of students, teachers and principals over the next few years.

But one other issue created more buzz, just as in every school boardroom in the country — campus security and public discussion of guns on campuses.

The action item on the Arlington trustees’ agenda included a recommendation from administrators to install buzzer/camera systems at all 51 elementaries to enhance the present security cameras, visitor screening system and new keyless entry system.

The system could be installed at the main exterior entrance of each elementary school. All doors would be locked during the school day, and visitors would press a buzzer at the main entrance to request entry. A camera would send the visitor’s image to a monitor in the office, where staff would control the door.

Once inside the building, visitors would still be directed to check in at the office and undergo a visitor background check.

The estimated cost of a buzzer/camera system for 51 elementary schools is $224,400.That could come out of the $10.6 million in surplus 2009 bond funds, which are already earmarked for security infrastructure, administrators said.

Trustees voted to instruct administrators to gather more information about the systems and report back.

During the open forum earlier in the meeting, two members of the public spoke on the subject of campus security, with very different perspectives.

“There are bad guns and good guns,” said Robert Morrison, “Good guns are in the hands of responsible citizens. Why are guns looked upon so badly when we want to protect our most valuable asset, our children?”

He called on trustees to allow school staff members with concealed-handgun licenses to carry guns on campus, and to remove “Gun Free Zone” signs. at all campuses.

Luis Castillo, who identified himself as a former peace officer, offered his own two-point plan.

“It’s one thing to have a licensed handgun permit and another to use it,” he said. “Not everyone is cut for that.”

Castillo advocated increasing law enforcement presence at elementary schools “without the exorbitant cost,” he said.

“We should seek creative ways to bring uniformed law enforcement officers to elementary campuses,” he said.

He suggested hosting breakfast or lunches for officers, have students write essays and ask them to visit the schools, have officers give job presentations, and encourage police to have adopt- a- school programs.

Residents near schools could organize community watch programs.

Castillo’s second suggestion involved hiring 60 campus monitors for elementary schools, at a first-year cost of $2.5 million.

Earlier this week, Arlington’s Lamar High School was locked down for a short time after a student told a school resource officer that another student had brought a gun to school. Police searched but found no gun.

In other business, Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos announced 10 new career certificate programs in partnership with Tarrant County College. The district already has 15 such programs.

“The addition of these 10 programs will open the door to new career opportunities for our students,” Cavazos said.

The programs will be dual-credit with TCC and enable students to get a head start on an associate degree in technical fields while they in high school.

The programs are accounting assistant; automotive engine analysis; automotive metal repair; business; computer-aided drafting and design; computer maintenance; culinary arts; game and simulation programming; heating, air conditioning and refrigeration; and welding. The culinary arts program has already begun, and the others will be online for the fall semester.

Martin High School will host the accounting and business classes. Arlington High and TCC Southeast campus are sites for the culinary program.

Automotive, computer drafting, maintenance and game and simulation programming, along with heating, air conditioning and welding will be offered at the TCC South Campus.

Transportation will be provided to students who need it.

Also Thursday, two area superintendents were appointed, representing a change in the district administrative flow chart.

Indivdual campus principals of the 74 schools will first be accountable to either a secondary or an elementary area superintendent, who in turn will answer to Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos.Previously, all principals answered directly to the superintendent.

Melissa Haubrich was named an area superintendent elementary. She has served as director of elementary personnel since July, and previously served as principal at Ferguson Junior High and Pearcy Elementary School.

Michelle Wilmoth-Senato was named area superintendent secondary. She was formerly principal of Bowie High School and Boles Junior High, as well as a teacher at Arlington High School.

A second area superintendent elementary is expected to be named soon.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram