New School Guardian Program in Osceola County alleviating deputy shortage

A new guardian program is helping to alleviate the deputy shortage in Osceola Schools.

Christopher Bawiec on Thursday received an award for defusing a potential threat at his charter school. 

"Thank you, sir. Thank you very much."

He is one of 25 Safe School Officers hired through the new School Guardian Program. 

"I love working here, I love being around the kids."

Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez said hiring guardians for charter schools is a way to make sure there are more deputies in the field. 

"We decided to put them on patrol. And we hired a company and we train the guardians and put them only in charter schools."

He said the guardians are highly trained retired law enforcement, military, or SWAT. The biggest difference between guardians and SROs is the cost. 

"An SRO, we provide a vehicle, an SRO, the salary, the benefits comes out to about $150,000 a year. And with the guardian, you consolidate a package and let a third party manage it. "

He said that turns out to be around $50,000 for each hire.

Monique Machado, Slam Charter School principal, said they had a school resource officer but now have a guardian

"We understood the need for the change, but as bittersweet as the change was, we have grown to see the positivity in the change," she explained. 

Christopher Bawiec said it's a great opportunity.

"It’s a very positive impact that I’m having on youths." 

Sheriff Lopez said he still needs to hire about a half dozen more deputies.

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