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A year after Campus steps up security, guards reassure visitors and staff

Campus security guards James Makona and Ty Fernandez were recently honored with Mench of the Year awards by Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy.

Now that armed security guards have been at the Jewish Community Campus for a little more than a year, auto thefts, auto burglaries and other types of incidents at the Campus have dropped to nearly zero.

Blair Hawkins, director of community security, said after the shooting deaths of two people at the Campus on April 13, 2014, and a third at Village Shalom, he was brought in to beef up security so he hired contract guards from Securitas. Now staff, children and visitors feel safer just having their presence on the premises.

“I was hired after the event, so I looked for a company that fit the profile we had to fill,” Hawkins said. “The guards here are better equipped, they’re better trained. The first company did what they were hired to do, but they really didn’t provide much of a security service; they were more concierge doormen. The guards we have now still provide the customer service, they’re very friendly, but they are equipped and trained and better able to handle incidents on the Campus.”

He said on a routine basis the Campus has traffic accidents and medical issues, just as any other large facility. The current guards are trained in CPR, first aid and certified to use the medical equipment on hand. Some of the guards have law enforcement backgrounds and others a military background.

In addition to uniformed guards, there are also police officers working the Campus. Hawkins works for the entire community, so he comes and goes.

Ty Fernandez is the supervisor for the uniformed guards and reports directly to Hawkins. One of his main duties is to be outside when Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy and Child Development Center children are dropped off or picked up.

“I provide that security presence for them and make sure that all the parents and kids know who I am — especially the parents,” Fernandez said.

Hawkins said he knows from personal experience that Fernandez has learned the names of every parent and child.

There are multiple guards who work from opening to closing time, which fluctuates with the season. Hawkins said there is a roving guard who patrols the Campus primarily on the outer perimeter. The roving guard spends approximately a third of his time during the school year providing security to HBHA and the CDC for drop off, pick up, lunchroom duty and special assignments when students are outside working on a project. He also drives a vehicle and does foot patrols. During the summer about a third of his duties are assigned to the CDC and the camp.

Fernandez and James Makona are the two guards who spend much of their time watching over the children at HBHA and the CDC, and they both said they love the time spent with them. Recently, the students honored the two guards for their work with a Mensch of the Year Award.

Fernandez and Makona were completely overwhelmed by the honor.

“I’m not used to that type of award or recognition,” Fernandez said. “I just come to work and do my job and I love working here. So it was a surprise. I really appreciate it; I didn’t expect it and it’s very, very humbling to be recognized for that type of service.”

Makona said, “I got the invitation the week before and I thought it would just be us and a couple of other staff members thanking us for the work we did. (The award) just reassured me that I’m in the right place right now, I’m doing very good work with these guys and they appreciate the efforts we go through.”

Hawkins said the program is very similar to schools that have school resource officers.

“It’s just an added piece of security for the kids and the parents; they do traffic control, they provide security and high visibility,” he said. “They’re very well respected on the Campus and play a big role with the kids and make the parents feel more secure. They play a big role at the overall Campus.”

HBHA Head of School Howard Haas has great respect for the guards.

“We are so pleased with the services campus security provides for HBHA,” he said. “Blair and his entire staff have created a strong partnership with our faculty to ensure our students and teachers remain safe. It is heartwarming to see how the guards who watch over our students have become part of the HBHA community.”

It seems the guards are a hit with everyone at the Campus. Jessica Kyanka-Maggart, HBHA Lower School and Middle School principal, said teachers have expressed enormous gratitude to the guards for watching out for their safety.

“When faculty, staff, students, alumni or parents are asked how to describe HBHA, the most common answer is given in one word: family,” she said. “The campus security guards are just that — part of our family. Each morning, at any entrance, there is a security guard present in the doorway, smiling and greeting those who enter.

“As an adult, they give me a reassuring feeling as I know they are always watching and looking and monitoring our safety, and they are able to do so in a manner that is not obtrusive or intimidating.”

Kindergarten teacher Wendy Snitz said she formed a friendship with Fernandez last year when he came every day to walk the kindergartners out to their cars at dismissal. He took a vested interest in the children, learning all 35 of their names, and took time to visit with them when he came to the classroom.

“The kids loved seeing Ty and asking him questions, which he always took time to answer,” she said. “The students felt close to Ty and on several occasions, some would hold his hand when exiting the building. The Campus/HBHA is blessed to have Ty in our building. We can only hope he will be at the Campus for many, many years to come so he can maintain the friendships he has made with our students.”

Security guard Makona greets people coming in the main entrance.

“There are a lot of different agencies that operate around the Campus, so during the day there’s a lot of activity, a lot of meetings,” he said. “I’m keeping an eye on things as they progress throughout the day, seeing what’s usual, seeing what’s not usual. Day shift is a great routine, a lot of activity going on, but it’s good.”

Whenever Fernandez is unable to be at his post for student drop-off or pick-up, Makona fills in for him. He said a few students enter through the main entrance, so he has gotten to know them very well.

Makona said it is an honor to be a part of this community. “This post is one of the better ones I’ve been at and every time I come in every day I feel like I have a purpose and then when I leave at the end of the day, I feel fulfilled.”