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Former teacher takes over security reigns

Until recently, Carlton Newkirk was a teacher at Varnett’s Southwest Campus. Now he is the district’s new security coordinator.

Given his duties as a security police officer during his 12 years in the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Newkirk appears to fit right in.

In between those assignments, he was a computer expert in the Alief Independent School District and in March 2010 moved to Varnett with the task of teaching kindergarten students.

So much for his teaching career.

Varnett Superintendent Annette Cluff said Mr. Newkirk, 32, was an obvious choice for the job, in which he said had expressed an interest.

“I like his mannerisms and the fact that he had military experience as an Air Force police officer,” Mrs.Cluff said. “Plus, he was a teacher with us …and I observed how he worked with the students and the staff and how he communicated effectively with the parents.”

Mrs. Cluff  said Mr. Newkirk’s communication with parents is the key to assuring that their children are in a safe and secure school district.

In an interview, Mr. Newkirk said that he will examine the district’s safety program and  fire drills procedures and will ensure that everybody is familiar with the lockdown policy in the event of an emergency. He also promises to have an active, four-member team that will be “an operational factor of being a deterrent” to unwanted activity.

“We just want to ensure that we are aware of what’s going on with anything that refers to security and safety on a daily basis,” Mr. Newkirk said. “I want to always be informed of possible security or safety situations.”

Mr. Newkirk said the Texas Education Agency offers a safety film to all schools and districts in the event of a lockdown, which would require turning off all lights and making sure the doors are locked in response to a major event or intrusion.

 “I want to make sure that all staff members, teachers and bus drivers get to see the film,” Mr. Newkirk said. “In case of an emergency, we don’t want people in disarray.”

A key component of the safety and security of students and staff is an enhanced number of security cameras and audio recording devices, which Mr. Newkirk helped install this summer.

Staffers installed 210 security cameras in classrooms, hallways, entrances and on the exterior of buildings to complement the 150 cameras already in place throughout the district.

Mr. Newkirk, 32, talked about his military experience in explaining why the security cameras will play an important role in the security all of those associated with the district.

“We used security cameras sometimes when we didn’t have the manpower or someone to actually be in a certain area,” he said. “The cameras are a good backup but we still need someone to walk the fence lines.” The cameras also will help district personnel give a more accurate description of an intruder and will help settle any disputed incidences involving teachers, parents and staff.

Mr. Newkirk was an M-9 pistol and M-16 rifle marksman. As part of his 12 years in the Air Force, he served in Korea in 1999-2000 and went on a 90-day tour in Afghanistan in 2002, shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He received two Golden Oak leaf medals for saving the Air Force $90,000 in the installation of security alarms and cameras.

He graduated in March 2002 from the Community College of the Air Force in the field of criminal justice. In 2006, he graduated from the University of Phoenix with a bachelor’s degree in business management. The Air Force had a troops-to-teachers program and that’s how Mr. Newkirk got into education.

Mr. Newkirk, who is certified in security training, was honorably discharged last year and in the 2009-2010 school year worked as Student Initiative Data Manager at Alief. He said he explained to Alief officials that he ultimately wanted to be a teacher.

He had a taste of teaching at Varnett and now he has new responsibilities, which he said he welcomes.

The bottom line is that safety “should not be an issue” at Varnett, Mr. Newkirk said.

“The students should be able to focus on receiving an education and the teachers should be able to disperse it.”

Mr. Newkirk is married to Ugoeze Newkirk and has three children.

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