District coordinator has plenty to keep him busy

DISTRICT 51 safety coordinator Tim Leon packs new radios for schools.

Tim Leon’s directive when he began his new job was simple: focus on any issue related to safety.

A more vague job description could not be crafted, and when charged with coordinating the security of 41 schools across School District 51 that educate more than 21,000 students, Leon’s job became even more daunting.

“It’s really a twofold task,” Leon said. “I’ll be coordinating safety and working with prevention programs. Those work well together.”

District 51 created a new position of safety coordinator over the summer for the 2008-09 school year after one of the two half-time employees handling the workload retired. Leon will oversee school resource officers, administration and community liaisons to coordinate crisis planning and drug-free buildings among the schools.

“Before this position was created, there was a lot of overlap,” said Rebecca Schwerdtfeger of the safe and drug-free schools department. She also was one of the half-time employees that Leon will absorb.

That overlap has grown since events such as the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, Schwerdtfeger said.

Community members outside of the district began taking a more involved interest in security and forming organizations such as the Mesa County Meth Task Force.

Since taking office this month, Leon said he has toured school facilities and checked for consistency among
emergency response plans.

The district drafted procedure plans for every possible scenario, Schwerdtfeger said, including school fires, shootings, chemical spills and train derailments.

District 51 schools are fairly consistent in emergency plans, Leon said, and he has been meeting with school administrators to address any school-specific concerns.

“Mesa County has a pretty solid reputation for staying ahead on security,” Leon said.

The buildings in the district are old, however, and Leon said staff at some buildings have to be specially trained to work around outdated security infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the board of education approved placing on the November ballot a $185 million school bond measure, which would provide $33 million for repair and maintenance, some of which would address security updates.

Schwerdtfeger said projects are tackled in order of urgency, such as installing fencing at Appleton Elementary to separate the recess area from the parking lot.

Leon, a 25-year veteran of law enforcement with 15 years as a resource officer at Grand Junction and Fruita Monument high schools, said he has seen security at schools change dramatically.

“When I started, we didn’t even wear uniforms at school. It was much more of a mentor role,” Leon said. “Now, it’s much more security-oriented.”


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