Texas school district approves staff for concealed-carry program

Aug. 13--SADLER -- Several teachers and staff received final approval from the Sadler and Southmayd Consolidated Independent School District Monday to carry concealed handguns on school grounds through the District's new Defender program. Citing security concerns, the District declined to reveal the identity or number of participants approved.

The Board adopted the Defender program in April with the goal of preparing the district to respond in the case of a school shooting. The Board then selected a group of teachers and staff from a list of volunteers to undergo a psychological evaluation and 24 hours of specialized concealed carry training over the summer. Monday night, the Board reviewed the participants' performances in those evaluations in closed session and voted to approve the list as presented.

Superintendent Tommy Hunter said the district would prefer not to reveal details about which staff may be armed for fear that those individuals would be targeted should a shooting occur. "We don't want to help potential shooters plan, or aid in any sort of preparation," Hunter said. "The teachers are going to know who is armed, but the student body is not."

Hunter did say he was pleased with the way employees have responded to the program, and confirmed that every campus in the District will have at least one Defender participant.

Monday night's vote gave final approval to participants, but that approval is conditional. Hunter said the district will keep a close eye on participants as the year progresses.

"We will have monthly trainings. They have to attend a set number of those trainings in order to stay current and keep having the privilege of carrying that weapon on school grounds. And at the end of the school year, the list will be reevaluated as a whole," Hunter said.

The board also held a budget workshop for the upcoming school year. The administration recommended a balanced budget that would add four new teaching positions and raise salaries for both teachers and other employees. This is the result of a concerted effort by the administration to make sure all positions at the school have salaries at or above the regional average, Hunter said. The proposed tax rate would remain unchanged at $1.30 per $100 valuation.

The Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget and tax rate at 6 p.m. Monday in the administration building.

Also discussed was the resignation of two Board members: Randall Collum and Mark Lancaster. The Board has until January to appoint replacements, and Hunter said that both members will stay on for the end of the budget process. No comment was given on the reason for their resignations.

Copyright 2014 - Herald Democrat, Sherman, Texas