CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — Charlotte County Public Schools has approved a new "Guardian" program, which will allow the district to hire armed security guards.
The program was established in 2018 through the Majory Stoneman Douglas High Public Safety Act. It was adopted by the Charlotte County School Board on Tuesday under its district policies.
"Guardians are armed personnel who aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises," the Florida Department of Education says. "They are either school employees who volunteer to serve in addition to official job duties, or personnel hired for the specific purpose of serving as a school guardian."
In the case of CCPS, they will be hired to serve as a guardian. Guardians must pass psychological and drug screenings and successfully complete a minimum of 144 hours of training.
"Safety matters most," Vianello said. "That [guardians] is a tool that can help keep our students and our employees and our visitors to our schools safe."
This program comes as a new superintendent takes over for Steve Dionisio, who retired after 33 years with the district. His role now goes to Mark Vianello, who worked most recently in Marion County.
"I’m not coming in here to make a lot of changes," Vianello said. "I’m coming in here to build upon the success of, really, an outstanding school system."
That's the mindset for Vianello as he finished his second day on Thursday as the new superintendent.
"Any position that you're in you want to make a difference," he said.
Vianello says he wants to focus on student investment after graduation, aligning school programs with the community workforce and academic achievement.
"It’s them leaving with a well thought out coordinated plan of what’s next for them," Vianello said.
Though Vianello knows it also comes back to bringing teachers in to fill 70 vacancies.
"It starts with culture and making sure this is a place where people want to work," he said. "We have to continue to be innovative and work with outside companies that can help us have job fairs."
The new superintendent is already hitting the ground running by talking to teachers and evaluating multiple layers in the district.
"You look at the things that are working well and the things that are working well, you double down on," Vianello explained. "The things that are barriers to continued growth or success, those are what you have to identify and problem solve."
As for the guardian program, Vianello says they're working with the sheriff's office to come up with the framework of the program, though it's not clear when it will be put into place.