GISD Plans to Have Police Officers on All Campuses, Names New Chief

In the News

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Jul. 21—Starting this coming school year, the Greenville Independent School District hopes to have a police officer on each of its campuses after the school board’s decision on Tuesday to expand the GISD Police Department to include six additional officers—for a total of nine.

In addition to expanding the department, the district also announced Wednesday morning that they had hired a new police chief, Oscar Serrato, who previously served for five years as an officer for Terrell ISD. Serrato replaces Ramon Rodriguez, who left GISD earlier this summer after being hired by Caddo Mills ISD to be his new district’s director of security and to oversee the building of a police department.

These decisions, plus updates made to Greenville ISD’s safety policy ahead of the 2022-23 school year (which include only allowing students to use clear backpacks and campuses utilizing the Raptor visitor screening/sign in system) come after a year when the district saw an incident in which a fake pipe bomb was found at the high school—a situation that ultimately led to the arrest of a juvenile suspect within eight hours after an investigation was conducted by seven law enforcement agencies and the Greenville Fire Department.

In addition to the local incident, the shooting massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24 has also raised concerns among many in the community about security at schools.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, the trustees authorized the transfer of $520,000 from the district’s fund balance to payroll to hire the six additional officers, who were previously not budgeted for. Before the board voted, seeing as the expenditure would be something that would have to be budgeted for year after year, Trustee Tish Woodruff asked if the district was seeking any grants or other state funding to assist with the hiring of police officers.

“It seems like the State of Texas is more in tune to the need, but so far no additional funds have been sent to any district,” Supt. Sharon Boothe said in response. “We did approve a grant writer this year … She’s looking every single day for grants.”

Due to the high demand for police officers for schools in Texas, GISD is hoping to fill at least some of the positions by “hiring from within,” as some of the district’s student engagement officers are “currently in training” to become certified police officers, Chief Communications Officer Helen Williams told the Herald-Banner.

“Having them in training when the board decided to add the six new positions—and when districts all over the state are scrambling to hire officers—makes the timing (of the board’s decision) fortuitous for us,” Williams added.

Student engagement officers support the district by maintaining a presence on campuses and assisting with discipline. They have also served as mentors who students can talk to when they’re going through difficult life situations and coping with sometimes overwhelming emotions.

Building on the concept of protecting students but also being a mentor to them, GISD’s newly hired Chief Serrato said, “I take great pride in my ability to build positive and trustworthy relationships with students. I strive to help them know that every day they have an opportunity to make choices which will help them get to where they want to be.”

In addition to previous experience as a police officer for a school district, Serrato has worked as a deputy sheriff for Tarrant County and as an officer with the Wilmer Police Department.

“Chief Serrato brings years of experience in several sectors, serving in law enforcement roles in county, municipal and school district departments,” Supt. Boothe said. “He understands the importance of building a safe and secure learning environment for our community, and he is committed to partnering with other law enforcement entities in order to be both proactive and prepared.”