Woodbridge will add armed guards in the wake of Uvalde

Woodbridge will add armed guards in the wake of Uvalde
From left, board members Jeffrey Allen and Elaine Gallant, along with Superintendent Heath Chasanov, listen during the board meeting Thursday night. 

Prompted by the latest mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Woodbridge School District is adding armed constables to its schools and increasing the number of security staff. The board also voted Thursday night to add a new position of safety and security lead.

“Unfortunately, based on some actions that have occurred recently in our country, Uvalde, Texas, specifically, we have to continue to have these conversations on what’s the best way to keep our kids and our staff safe,” Superintendent Heath Chasanov told the board as he made the request for increased security.

“We have done quite a bit over the last few years to try to do this. I think it’s time that we take the next step,” he said.

The shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde left more than 20 children and teachers dead and a number of others injured. Most of the victims were children.

The school will enter the state constable program, meaning it will go from having security guards to armed officers. Constables don’t have full police powers and can’t make arrests per se, but they can detain people and turn them over to local police. In addition to firearms they can also carry weapons like tasers and handcuffs.

In addition, the schools will double security staff, going to two in each building. Chasanov said that would allow one person to monitor security cameras while another patrols.

There are more than 300 constables in Delaware schools now, Chasanov said, and from conversations he’s had, he thinks that number will skyrocket. “I don’t think we’re going to be the only ones that are going to be having this conversation as a school district.”

The safety and security lead would be one of the constables, and would also oversee security at all district schools and collaborate with law enforcement. This person would also conduct training for school staff. According to the job listing, they will need to have experience in law enforcement.

“What we’re looking for is … probably like a retired police officer, somebody with experience in this area,” Chasanov said. He said Indian River and Brandywine school districts both have similar positions.

The board approved the request.

“It’s a good plan,” outgoing board president Paul Breeding said. He said he would also like the new security lead to take a hard look at the playground at Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center, which is right next to Route 13 in Greenwood. “It is not safe,” he said. “... I don’t see any reason we cannot move that playground back.”

Other board happenings

Breeding, who is retiring, was honored Thursday night for his 17 years of service on the school board.

Board member Steve McCarron presented Breeding with a plaque “in recognition of your selfless and unwavering service.”

Outgoing President Paul Breeding, left, with a plaque presented by board member Steve McCarron, right. 

“We all know that for the past 17 years, you have made your full time job to be a steward of this district,” he said. “It is especially evident since you were chosen by your peers to lead this board for the past 16 years.”  

“You would think it was a long 17 years, but it wasn’t,” Breeding said, growing emotional and pausing for a long moment to compose himself. “I enjoyed the 17 years I’ve done this.” That was because of all the people he’s worked with in the district who have done a great job supporting the board, he said.

District administrators thanked Breeding as they gave their monthly reports.

“Thank you Mr. Breeding for believing in me, Woodbridge and our staff,” Woodbridge Middle School Principal Tara Downes said.  

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board approved a new four-year contract with teachers and other school staff.

“I think that’s the first time in school history for a four-year contract,” Chasanov said. Teachers will get pay increases each year, going from 3 percent a year down to 2.5 percent over that time period.

“I think our teachers deserve it, absolutely, for what they’ve had to go through the last several years,” Chasanov said, noting that with the new raises, the average annual raise over 10 years will come to about 1.9 percent.

The board also approved salary increases to match for other staff like secretaries, cafeteria workers and more.

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