JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a presentation to the Duval County School Board Tuesday, representatives of the district’s police department detailed the need for increased recruitment and retention efforts to fill more than 20 vacancies.
The Florida Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools requires at least one “Safe School Officer” or “Guardian” at every public school when school is in session.
There are four options for the district to staff these in-school positions:
- School Safety Officers (SSOs) are certified law enforcement officers who have the same arresting power as Deputy Sheriffs but are employed by the school district police department.
- School Resource Officers (SROs) are also certified law enforcement officers but are employed by an outside law enforcement agency, instead of the district’s police department.
- School Guardians (School Safety Assistants) are school district or charter school employees who are specifically hired to serve as school guardians.
- Licensed Security Guards are hired by the school board as part of a contract with a private security agency. They’ve completed the Coach Aaron Feis training program in order to carry a Class “D” and Class “G” license. DCPS does not currently employ any Licensed Security Guards.
According to the staffing analysis presented Tuesday, the district currently has 22 vacancies; five in secondary schools and 17 in primary schools.
Also at issue, the presentation noted, is keeping the officers who have been hired by the district.
The vast majority of those who apply for school safety officer or school safety assistant positions are disqualified or withdraw themselves from consideration.
Of the 93 applicants for school safety officer, only 13 were eventually hired -- and six applications are still processing.
However, while the department picked up 13 officers since July 1, it also lost eight officers in that same time -- netting the department only five officers out of the 93 that initially applied.
One of the factors suggested as a reason for the recruitment and retention challenges is the rate of pay for the positions -- as more lucrative options are available elsewhere.
The compensation for a School Safety Officer on a 12-month contract is less than $40,000, not including benefits.
The DCPS Police Department pitched the idea of using Security Guards as Guardians, saying its more efficient, more cost-effective than utilizing JSO officers, and takes the chore of recruitment out of the district’s hands and turns it over to the security contractor.
JSO is currently reducing staff working in DCPS annually by 20 officers until they’re removed completely, which has already contributed to the increased staffing challenge, as first reported by the Florida Times-Union.
Two security companies were floated as possible sources: Allied Security, which already works with charter schools in Duval, Leon, and St. Johns counties; and Dynamic Integrated Security, which currently works with the districts in Orange, Dade, and Hillsborough counties.