KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A new Chief of Security is now in place at Knox County Schools, and he’s planning to make the focus of security largely about building relationships. Jason Peraird officially started on Monday, replacing former Chief of Security Gus Paidousis.
Peraird, a former Marine, has an extensive history of working in law enforcement and security. He said he will use what he learned during that prior experience to make students safe and make them feel welcomed.
“I find that people are at the center of every successful security mission. If you don’t have those relationships built ahead of time, then you’re somebody on the outside looking in and you’re trying to do it at the last minute and that’s a situation of failure at that point,” Peraird said.
Periard said most of the security is all about knowing who you serve and listening to their needs, while also ensuring they aren’t interfering with education.
“Everything that I will try to do is make a balance between safety and security and keeping the community open and welcoming. The school needs to be able to do what its function is and that is to create a flourishing educational environment,” Periard said.
Peraird is coming in at a critical point. Just months after a student was shot and killed by law enforcement on school property. He said he knows about what happened from an outsider’s perspective. He understands the pressure and said what happened was a tragedy.
I’ve already reached out to the principal. I plan on meeting with her, I plan on working with Superintendent Thomas very closely on how we can get feedback from the community to work in those schools better. We can always do better,” Periard said.
Periard said his philosophy of security has several tiers. The first is building relationships between school security officers, students, staff, and parents, having approachable SSOs and soft skills training that would include cultural competency.
The second is an intelligence-led security model, which includes building a central hub of crisis communications and using the latest in data-driven security. He said officers will reassess threat assessments on a short-term and long-term basis.
“You’re constantly adjusting to the changing threats, whether they be manmade or natural,” Periard said.
Another part of his philosophy is the threat assessment process. By that, he means every school will have different security protocols.
“I would tell parents also, that if you go from one school to another, you may see a slight change in the way that we employ our security. Just know that that’s based on that risk assessment model where we actually have tailored the security and mitigation strategies to that school,” Peraird said.
Lastly, he believes in building a relationship with the community. He said that’s what his work in Los Angeles revolved around. “It was all the faith community getting together and saying, ‘how can we work together to make ourselves more secure,'” Periard said.
Being on the job for only five days, Periard said he hasn’t been able to go through all the current protocols from under Paidousis’ time as chief. But, he does know he wants to add even more training.
“We do, I believe, 40 hours of training at this point. I want to augment that. I want to make it, I want to actually add to it. We send our officers throughout the year to many different programs that are like cutting edge security techniques and law enforcement conferences and things like that, so we’re constantly looking for ways to improve,” Peraird said.
With school starting Monday, Peraird said there was a plan in place to make sure all SSOs were trained before he started his job. He said he was grateful to Paidousis for making that happen.
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“We’ve done all of our training. We’ve, I’ve seen some of it, haven’t had time to see all of it. But I am confident that my staff has done an amazing job of preparing the SSOs for the new school year,” Periard said.
If there’s one thing that he wants parents to know before they drop their kids off at school on Monday, it’s that he will do everything in his power to keep them safe and that his office wants to hear from parents if they have any concerns.
“We don’t do anything through emotion. We look at the data, we look at where things are trending, we get feedback from the community, from the staff of the school, most importantly to make sure the school’s not being affected negatively. But, I promise to do everything I can to do things thoughtfully and to make sure they feel confident when they drop their kids off at school,” Periard said.