Correction: The online edition of this story has been updated since it appeared in print. An article on Page A1 of Monday’s edition should have said that Clear Creek Independent School District has always conducted criminal background checks on prospective volunteers, though some aspects of those have changed under new requirements, including one that applicants fill out new paperwork yearly instead of every three years.
Prospective volunteers in Clear Creek Independent School District might find a more rigorous application process this year after district administrators increased how often potential applicants must fill out paperwork and is spending $52,000 to conduct background checks.
While the district has conducted backgrounds checks in the past, administrators are increasing the frequency as a means of increasing school security.
“The Clear Creek Independent School District is committed to providing a safe learning environment for students, staff and visitors,” Monique Sennet, spokeswoman for the district, said.
The new volunteer application system is the latest step district administrators have taken to increase school security since the May 18, 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School that left 10 people dead and another 13 people injured.
As part of the new application process, volunteers will fill out an online form, wait three or four business days for processing and notification of final status and then present a government-issued ID at campus, officials said.
The district will spend about $52,000 each year to keep the Hall Pass background check software, though that number could change depending on the actual number of volunteers, Sennet said.
School districts across Galveston County increased their funding for school security and hired additional staff in response to the shooting. Texas City, for instance, hired former U.S. Secret Service agent Mike Matranga to be its executive director of security and safety and gave him a $6.5 million security budget.
Nationally, education spending on security equipment and services has reached $2.7 billion in 2017 and should rise to $2.8 billion by 2021, according to a report by IHS Markit, an information provider.
But while Clear Creek’s application system itself might be new, representatives for other districts in the county this week said they’ve had similar processes in place for years.
Dickinson Independent School District, for instance, spent $3,881 in 2019 for a yearly subscription to Volunteer Tracker, which is a similar program for conducting background checks on volunteers, said Tammy Dowdy, spokeswoman for the district.
Texas City also uses the same program, which conducts a criminal background check and notifies human resources personnel about the results, after which campuses determine volunteer eligibility, said Melissa Tortorici, spokeswoman for the district.
Galveston, meanwhile, uses the Harris County Medical Society to vet volunteers, Superintendent Kelli Moulton said.
“We want our campuses and the adults that serve and support our students to appreciate the safety and security steps we have in place,” Moulton said.
Clear Creek trustees have signed off in recent months on several recommendations to increase school security, such as one to fill a total of 30 new positions — including 15 additional Galveston County Sheriff’s Office school liaison officers and additional mental health counselors — for about $2.2 million.
District voters in May 2017 also approved a $487 million bond issue that included $8.1 million to upgrade security systems, but trustees this summer approved more than $6.84 million for district-wide security upgrades and another $10.59 million to add vestibules at the entryways of all five comprehensive high schools, officials said.
Administrators at the time blamed the cost increase on underestimating the rate of inflation on security upgrades.