Survey reveals 112 district employees interested in being school guardians

Only 17 of the interested respondents said they had military or law enforcement experience.

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  • | 7:51 p.m. February 7, 2023
School Board member Colleen Conklin prefers school guardian candidates to have previous military or law enforcement experience.
School Board member Colleen Conklin prefers school guardian candidates to have previous military or law enforcement experience.
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One hundred and twelve Flagler County School District employees have indicated they would be interested in becoming school guardians.

The district handed out "Guardian Program interest Forms" recently to gauge how many non-instructional and instructional employees would be interested in carrying concealed weapons on campus for the sole purpose of thwarting an active assailant incident.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they were not interested in becoming guardians, Flagler School Safety Specialist Tom Wooleyhan told the School Board at workshop on Feb. 7. Sixty-eight of the respondents who said they would be interested in joining the program said they already have a concealed weapon license. Fifty-five of those who indicated they were interested were instructional personnel, meaning they could be in a classroom all day. All of the schools were represented among the 112 interested respondents. 

 But only 17 of those interested said they have been in the military or have a law enforcement background.

That was a sticking point for board member Colleen Conklin, who said she would require all employees who would carry a concealed weapon on campus to have military or law enforcement experience.

Flagler County Sheriff Office commanders said they could train a maximum of 13 guardian candidates at a time, Wooleyhan said. 

Board member Will Furry said if the school district needs only 13 guardians the interest makes the program "doable."

"This wasn't a survey on whether or not we want the guardian program. It was how many people are willing to do it, right? And we had 112 people raise their hands and said, 'I'm willing to be a guardian,'" Furry said.

"That's great," responded Conklin. "I know I was very clear when we were doing this that I would only even be interested in this if we were looking at retired military and law enforcement."

But Furry said, "To me, that's not a prerequisite."

"My optimism here is 112 people said, 'yes, I want to do it.' So we only need 13 That's a good number," Furry said.

School board chair Cheryl Massaro asked if there would be pre-screening of the candidates before they begin training. Wooleyhan said the FCSO would require a background screening and a mental health screening.

"We went down to Volusia to look at their model and how they operate," Wooleyhan said. "The mental health component and the screening on that, the evaluation piece, is done prior to any weapons training."

Wooleyhan said the Volusia County School District uses uniformed personnel, and previous military or law enforcement experience is required. But larger school districts like Volusia use guardians as school resource officers for some of their schools, Flagler already has school resource deputies from the FCSO assigned to all of its schools. A guardian would be an additional person on campus to carry a weapon.

Board member Sally Hunt asked about the possibility of limiting guardian eligibility to specific non-instructional positions such as campus advisors who currently assist with security.

Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt, who brought up the survey in "old business," said the district wanted to share the results, and the board can discuss how it wants to move forward at a future workshop.

School calendar

Board members are expected to approve the district's proposed 2023-24 school calendar at their next business meeting on Feb. 22.

Louise Bossardet, coordinator of data quality, explained why the calendar committee decided on Dec. 22 as the last day of school before winter break.

"We wanted to finish the first semester in line with college (for dual-enrolled students) and before winter break," she said.

The first semester has 89 days, and the second semester has 90 days. If there should be a cancelation due to a hurricane, the district would not want to borrow a day from the second semester, she said. The committee also wanted a full week off for Thanksgiving, Bossardet said.




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