WASHINGTON AND HOLMES COUNTIES - The Valentine's Day shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left school campuses teeming with fear and shock also met school districts across the state with a new level of accountability for student safety.
Governor Rick School and state legislators responded with a $400 million package designated for school safety and mental health. With the funds, and in conjunction with other county agencies, Washington and Holmes County school districts added School Resource Officers to each campus, hired and filled the School Safety Administrator and met mental health requirements.
Holmes County School District received about $383,000 in school safety funds and $168,000 in mental health funding for the 2018-2019 school year. Washington County School District received $430,000, with $172,599 being designated to the mental health component.
"My number one priority is the safety of all students and staff within the district," said HCSD School Safety Specialist Greg Sallas. "I am pleased to be able to provide this service and am happy to be a part of the Holmes County School District."
WCSD hired Kimberly Register to serve in the capacity. The new position, which is state-mandated, offers up a broad job description - mainly stating the specialist should oversee all facets of safety district-wide and coordinate with county and state departments to make schools safer.
While Sallas will also serve as HCSD's Mental Health Administrator, WCSD hired two licensed professional counselors.
According to Director of Students and ESE Services Elizabeth Arnold, the new hires will fulfill a growing need for mental health response, as the number and incidents of Baker Act students grows.
In the 2017-18 school year, there were 24 incidents that required students to be declared under the Baker Act, Arnold said. A number of those students were at the elementary school level.
"We see that number rising - I know that’s a national trend as well; but we feel that this would assist those families meeting those children’s needs," Arnold said.
"We’re wanting someone who can meet the family’s need as well ," Arnold said, noting that the counselors will be active and visible in schools and the community. "It’s not just the Baker Act issue."