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More than $4 million spent so far on Uvalde CISD safety improvements, superintendent says

Superintendent Harrell ran through changes at a Monday meeting before inviting questions from community members, some of whom remain skeptical.

SAN ANTONIO — Parents of Uvalde CISD students questioned administrators Monday, ahead of the new school year. Some continued to levy skepticism that officials have done enough in the weeks since 21 were killed in the Robb Elementary massacre. 

And some critics young enough that the ongoing conversation affects them most. Among the attendees: A young girl who has a sibling with autism, and who directly addressed the Uvalde CISD board. 

"You guys need to do something. He needs to be protected," the child said, before her mother added that alarms and drills affect kids differently. 

District Superintendent Hal Harrell listed some of the changes being made ahead of Sept. 6, when students head back to school in Uvalde. Among them: more counselors and social workers at each district, upcoming post-traumatic incident training for staff, better fencing, virtual schooling options, and increased Texas trooper presence throughout the year. 

The Texas Department of Public Safety will station 33 officers at UCISD campuses throughout the school year. 

Harrell has also so far selected four candidates to add to the UCISD police force, all from out of town. The district will hire more officers, including an interim police chief, in the coming weeks. 

"In total, that's almost $4.5 million that we have used this summer to realign, reorganize and provide services for our campuses and staff and students as we move forward," Harrell said, capping a 22-minute presentation. 

Maintenance staff have already installed non-scalable fencing at Dalton Elementary school. They'll erect similar barricades at each campus, beginning with facilities serving younger students. 

Workers will also install 500 new security cameras around UCISD facilities. Roughly 100 are already in place and functional, Harrell said. 

The district aims to hire campus monitors to walk the school grounds and check gates and door locks. The monitors will frequently report their findings to district administrators to ensure compliance with emergency preparedness rules. 

School leaders are also working with a private company to bulletproof district windows and glass doors. 

Harrell said funding for the district's to-do list comes from a variety of sources, including Texas Department of Public Safety grants and the hefty Las Vegas Raiders donation. 

Parents at Monday's meeting said they appreciated the update, but told trustees their trust is bruised. 

The first speaker gestured toward his three children in the audience, before expressing frustration that school leaders placed former Robb Elementary principal Mandy Gutierrez in a new position over special education. Harrell had placed her on administrative leave, but re-assigned her soon after. 

"As for my youngest son, y'all have failed him," said Anson Bills. "Mandy? You brought her back? (My son) will not attend this school until she's removed." 

Some attendees held signs reading “We want accountability” and “Stand up for our children.” Other speakers inquired about the employment status of Uvalde CISD police officers, and grilled the board on what where the response fell apart on May 24.  

"I told my son we're going to have extra cops here. He said, 'Who cares about the cops? They're not going to do anything, anyway," said Adam Martinez, whose son was in Robb Elementary when the shooter opened fire into a different classroom. 

"The trust has been damaged," Harrell acknowledged. "It's been broken."

Others still asked specifically about Pete Arredondo, the embattled district police chief who has remained on unpaid leave since July 22 as the board awaits to meet and discuss his potential termination, which Harrell recommended in July. 

Harrell said he's proposed to Arredondo's attorney three dates in the "near future" for the required legal proceedings necessary for the chief's firing. A date for that hearing has not yet been set. 

“We have got to get this moving forward," Harrell said Monday night. "We can’t keep knocking the ball down the road.”

Monday's meeting came after the district on Friday announced that Christy Perez, a former assistant principal at Uvalde High School has been promoted to principal at Uvalde Elementary while now-former principal Mandy Gutierrez prepares for a new administrative position. 


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