Dawson resident Tony Wooten was hired Monday night to serve as the new Safe Schools Coordinator for Dawson County Schools.The board of education approved hiring Wooten during an executive session June 11.
The position was created in April, and the board stated that the coordinator would be responsible for assisting with the strategic direction of all system-wide school safety services, facilitating the development and monitoring of the system’s emergency preparedness plan, implementing programs and activities to reduce school violence, collaborating with the school resource officers and being a liaison between the sheriff’s office and the school system.
“Mr. Wooten’s experience with our schools and community, combined with his excitement and proactive approach to the position, make him a most valuable addition to our outstanding team,” said Chief Operations Officer Rick Brown.
Wooten will start working in the position July 1. His salary will be $60,695.
Wooten, 40, is well known in the Dawson County community for his volunteer work as well as for the 18 years he spent working for the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, serving in many capacities including school resource officer, public information officer and commander of five of the department’s six divisions.
He implemented the elementary school C.H.A.M.P.S. program, which focuses on teaching children to make positive choices and creating children’s drug-free curriculum that was later adopted by the Georgia Sheriffs Association. He also started the Shop with a Cop program, which now serves around 100 children at Christmas time, and Backpack Buddies, a program that provides snacks and easy-to-serve food to low income families in Dawson County.
He ran for sheriff in 2016 and lost in a runoff to Jeff Johnson in July. He resigned from the sheriff’s office as Captain in August of 2016.He was most recently employed as a sergeant at Lanier Technical College in Oakwood, where he has worked since November 2016.
His wife, Jennifer, is a fifth grade teacher at Robinson Elementary School and the two have three children: Owen, 10, Luke, 8, and Brooks, 6.
“I feel blessed to be able to come back and serve the students and staff of Dawson County,” Wooten said Tuesday.
The new position is just one of many school safety measures the board hopes to implement in the coming years.
The system held a school safety workshop March 8, after a deadly school shooting in Florida in February rocked the nation and pushed Georgia lawmakers and school board officials into action.
This year the state legislature approved $16 million to be divided among school districts for local boards of education to fund security measures, and Dawson County will be receiving $47,940 from the state. The funding cannot be used for salary or other personnel expenditures, or for ongoing operational costs.
That money will be used along with $400,000 from ESPLOST funds that the Dawson County school board voted April 16 to allocate for countywide safety upgrades.
Two additional school resource officers have been hired and an additional emergency lockdown method will be added to each school’s front office so that the staff there can initiate a school-wide lockdown.
A “buzz in” system will also be added to each school so that the front office is only accessible after establishing communication with the staff and being cleared for entry. The board also plans to make all campuses less accessible from the outside, and measures will include installing mirror window tints or blinds and removing recycle bins that attract visitors to the campuses.
A further safety measure to be implemented will be an alert system that is accessible to all staff, and would give first responders accurate information concerning location should an emergency occur.