JASPER, FL – The Hamilton County Development Authority (HCDA) in coordination with Hamilton County School District held its initial School Safety Advisory meeting recently. This collaborative effort stemmed from work already being accomplished through the Economic Development and Education Task Force which is led by Susan Ramsey, HCDA’s Executive Director. The purpose of the School Safety Advisory Council is to focus on proactive, preventative and preparedness measures aimed at promoting a safer and secure environment not only within the school system but within the community.  Through monthly collaborative efforts, the Council has been able to address topics such as the implementation of our First Responder Lunch Recognition Program, emergency preparedness, increased communication among stakeholders, prevention and intervention of substance abuse issues and best practice initiatives. Council members include:

  • Susan Ramsey, Executive Director, HCDA
  • Nat Combass, Chair, HCDA
  • Rex Mitchell, Superintendent
  • Philip Pinello, Assistant Superintendent
  • Chris Combass, Coordinator of School Safety
  • Vernon Douglas, School Board Attorney
  • Emily Lumpkin, Alcohol and Drug Prevention Coalition Coordinator
  • Pam Allen, Hamilton County Emergency Management
  • Cornelius Bennett, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office
  • Toby Witt, EMS Director

Susan Ramsey noted, “If you ever have a conversation with someone about education in America today, there is a good chance that one of the primary topics of conversation will involve school safety. The State of Florida has proven to be a leading voice on this topic, and that is evident through recent funding and policies. Our local counties are working diligently to satisfy the requirements of Senate Bill 7026, also known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, and there have been essential steps taken to increase security, upgrade facilities, strengthen mental health awareness as well as the implementation of best practices.”

In the coming months, the Hamilton County School Advisory Council will discuss how the community can participate in our “Say Something” campaign to make our schools and community a safer place. Many districts in the region, including Hamilton County, have partnered with Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization. This partnership has provided the community with many resources and initiatives to make schools and the community a safer place. “Say Something” is an initiative that teaches students in grades 6-12 to look for warning signs, take threats seriously, and to say something to a trusted adult. Families can help by making intentional efforts to ask questions about each other’s day; communicating about potential warning signs, signals, and threats; being observant of social media posts; and emphasizing the importance of saying something.

A great way to “Say Something” is to report suspicious activity through our FortifyFL mobile app.  More information regarding this tool can be found at www.getfortifyfl.com and visit www.hamiltonfl.com/safety for more information regarding other school safety initiatives taking place within Hamilton County.