BELTON — Belton schools Superintendent Susan Kincannon introduced three new hires as part of the district’s efforts to improve safety and security Monday evening.
Belton Independent School District hired Doug Taylor as its coordinator of public safety and Pete Ramirez as the coordinator of emergency preparedness — both new positions. Additionally, the board of trustees approved the appointment of Rachelle Warren as the director of social-emotional learning and multi-tiered systems of support.
Ramirez and Taylor did not have to be approved by the board because they are not certified by the State Board of Education. Warren, whose position is new, previously worked alongside Belton ISD on such things as anti-bullying efforts as an education director for the Anti-Defamation League.
“School safety has been a topic of great conversation across the nation in recent months,” Kincannon said. “The safety and well-being of students is our highest priority.”
In addition to personnel changes, the security plans include technical improvements to secure school entrances, increased use of drug dogs and other physical changes to campus security.
“At our new campuses under construction, we’ve included some infrastructure for magnetic card readers,” Kincannon said. “We plan to increase the use of drug dogs for random searches where appropriate; … we plan to evaluate the use and efficiency of security cameras.”
The district has put phones in every classroom, and Kincannon said that there is now a 911 alert system that notifies Deputy Superintendent Robert Muller when anyone calls 911 on one of those phones.
“I think Dr. Muller called 911 and we got an alert over in his office for him, because he accidentally called,” Kincannon said, to general laughter. “But that’s a handy tool for us to have.”
Kincannon said that this year the district wants to improve communication with students and parents on safety practices.
“We want to redesign our Tigers Don’t Bully campaign to a ‘See something, say something’ campaign, with the goal of getting more awareness of the need for students and community members to partner with teachers and administrators and staff on safety,” she said.
Kincannon said that in the area of personnel, the district has increased the number of school resource officers on campuses.
“At the high school level, we have campus security guards who serve as additional eyes and support for our campus administrators,” she said. “We’ve also used the (Texas) School Safety Center as a resource for training.”
Taylor has 21 years of law enforcement experience and previously worked for the Belton Police Department.
“School security and safety’s been a passion of mine for a long time,” Taylor said.
Ramirez is a 33-year veteran of the Temple Police Department, and his wife Jennifer is the Belton district’s special education director.
“I’m excited to come back and continue to serve the community,” Ramirez said.
Kincannon said that Warren has 23 years of experience, and her role will be to implement a social and emotional learning program. Warren will also oversee elementary school counselors.
“It’s fantastic to move from the role of (outside) support … to be one that gets to partner with you day in and day out,” Warren said.
Kincannon said that the ongoing improvement of security measures is part of the District Improvement Plan, which the board reviews and approves every year. The District Improvement Plan will be up for consideration again next month.
Kincannon praised the board for its input on security and the improvement plan so far.
“Your input has been received in multiple formats, including the superintendent’s performance goals, which we talked about in February,” she said. “So you are to be commended for the importance that you’ve placed on thoughtful planning, thoughtful goal-setting and continual improvement in this area.”
Trustee Ty Taggart praised the district staff members for the work they have done to respond to changes in school security needs.
“It (school violence) is not a big city thing anymore,” Taggart said. “It’s hometown; it’s Belton-type communities.”