6-1 vote, Natalia enters Guardian Program to protect schools

By Anton Reicher
The Natalia ISD school board voted Monday to approve proposed 2022-2023 district budget of $13.5 million, a 7.6 percent increase from the previous year.
Also, the board voted 6-1 to institute the Texas School Guardian Program, an integrated school security program to manage the risk of active shooter violence by arming key members of the staff and faculty. The program is already in place in the Devine, Hondo and D’Hanis school districts.
Regarding the budget vote, the new budget raises the starting pay for classroom teachers five percent. Under the new compensation plan, teachers will see a minimum increase of $750 up to $3,850 depending on the years of experience held.
Board president Eric Smith attributed the balanced budget to district director of finance Norma Fiddle working closely with the district administrators.
In other action, the board heard presentations from the district administration and the Medina County Sheriff’s Office about the Guardian program, developed as an effort to have an armed defensive approach to an active shooter on campus.
“We will be working with the city and the sheriff’s office to select appropriate staff members for the program,” Smith said. “We also implemented a $500 stipend for the staff members who will be going through the rigorous training to be ready for the next school year.”
The action comes in the wake of the May 24 shooting massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that left 19 students and two teachers dead. Smith said the action by the board was informed by a community survey conducted by the district in which 88 percent of the 700 responses favored research into the possible adoption of the program.
The program requires 16 hours of training by a licensed and certified Department of Public Safety instructor. Training requires live fire qualification and simulation exercises.
Paul Almendarez voted against implementing the new security program, with all other board members voting in favor.