- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A St. Mary’s County commissioner wants to see teachers and other public school staff go through military-style tactical training as a way to better secure local schools.
The idea came up during a Tuesday afternoon meeting between the commissioners and school board.
“Our schools are very safe,” Superintendent Michael Martirano said while briefing the officials on St. Mary’s school safety measures in light of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut last month.
Commissioner Dan Morris (R) asked if teachers are sent to tactical training courses like members of the military attend. He said that he was not talking about arming teachers in the schools. Morris said tactical training would help provide another layer of security at schools, and that the training is worth more than just having a weapon.
He said Thursday that military defensive training for all teachers would give them “the ability to use your eyes, your brain and see potential danger before it gets there.” He said teachers could be taught how to use everyday objects to defend themselves and their students in an emergency situation.
Martirano said schools do offer some types of training, and that he would expect more would be offered for teachers and school staff.
In an interview later, Martirano said schools do offer “table-top exercises” with some employees and routinely go over emergency management plans.
Martirano reiterated that schools are not and should not be prisons, and that for every security measure taken, another weakness may be exposed.
He said he is hoping to tap into some of the millions of dollars Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has proposed to spend on school security enhancements.
He said teachers, administrators and even students need to report issues of potential violence that could happen at schools.
“We’ve got to try to do what we can,” Commission President Jack Russell (D) said.
Most of the boards’ joint meeting was occupied by predictions of how next year’s school budget will shape up.
Elaine Kramer, the county’s chief financial officer, suggested the boards use a similar approach to last year’s budget planning, with the school board using the previous year’s budget as a starting point and then prioritizing and explaining any requests above that amount. The county will not provide a target number for the school board.
Martirano earlier this month proposed a 4.8 percent increase to the overall fiscal 2014 school operating budget for a total of $192.4 million. That is about $8.9 million more than the current year, and calls for a $7 million increase from the county government as well as $874,000 more from the state and an additional $1 million from the school’s surplus funds.
The additional money would pay for about 30 new jobs at a cost of $2.2 million, raises for all employees at a cost of about $2.1 million, and cover escalating expenses for health care and other items next fiscal year.
County staff presented information that a pay step increase along with a 1 percent cost-of-living raise for county employees would cost about $1 million. The commissioners have not yet proposed an official budget for fiscal 2014.
Martirano said he would like parity when it comes to pay raises for school employees.
Teachers, administrators and support staff have unions that negotiate pay and other issues with the school board, while the commissioners simply enact pay changes for county employees.
Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said he, too, would like parity between pay raises for school and county employees. He said it was “a shocker” to first learn about the superintendent’s proposed budget by reading it in the newspaper. Asked in an interview later how he would rather learn about the budget, which was presented at a Jan. 9 public school board meeting, he said he did not know.
Commissioner Cindy Jones (R) took the face-to-face opportunity to again chastise the school board members for not showing up to a commissioners’ meeting half a year ago when the county officially approved the board of education’s budget. School staff were at the meeting, but none of the five school board members attended.
“That’s something that makes it very difficult for us to collaborate with you,” Jones said. She said she was not pleased that the superintendent changed several administrators’ titles and gave them the associated pay raises outside of the budget process.
“It’s simply a matter of accountability to our citizens,” Jones said.
Sal Raspa, school board chair, said at the conclusion of the meeting that the school board members are accountable.