Knox County School security officers attend training
(WBIR - Knoxville) Monday marked the start of the third week on the job for dozens of new Knox County school security officers. They spent the day in the training academy preparing for their new roles.
"We feel very good with the quality of our candidates. We feel very confident with the folks we have hired and placed in the academy so far," said new school security chief, Gus Paidousis.
While many officers have law enforcement backgrounds, others come with educational or military experience.
"It's a very exciting time. It fills us with a lot of pride that people will still step forward and let the community embrace them and come together to learn how to protect children," he said.
Paidousis said the district has hired about 47 new officers so far Knox County Schools superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre previously stated the district had plans for 58 officer positions.
"We anticipate another hiring cycle relatively soon," Paidousis said.
The officers already chosen are in the middle of a five-week, intensive training academy. Courses cover weapons handling, drug recognition, defense tactics and school policies.
District officials are still working on officer placements, but said every school will have at least one armed officer by the start of the year.
Paidousis described their role on campus.
"They'll maintain a uniformed presence. They'll help with security assessments. They'll be sure traffic flows in an orderly manner. They'll be a liaison with the principal and work with the students," he said.
Getting the additional officers has been a months-long endeavor and is one part of a larger project to boost school security.
Following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, parents in Knox County told Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre they wanted more protection for students in this district.
Then this spring, problems with security systems at two schools prompted the district to audit all school systems.
"This year, we really talked a lot publicly about adding three additional strategies," McIntyre told 10News in an interview earlier this month.
"One, is to have current generation video camera systems in every school. The second is to have what we call a 'school access control strategy' at every school, to be sure the people that are supposed to be in school, can be in school, and the folks who aren't supposed to be in school, aren't," he said, before again explaining the additional school resource officers round out the third strategy.
The district's budget included about $1.7 million for the addition of those officers. McIntyre said the starting salary for that position is $20,500 with the 10-month contract, with year-round full benefits.
The Knoxville Police Department and the Knox County Sheriff's Office are assisting the district with training exercises. Paidousis, a former member of KPD, says he is grateful for the partnership.