GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay County’s Emergency Management Director will leave his position at the end of April to become the Clay County School District’s Director of Operations, Safety and …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay County’s Emergency Management Director will leave his position at the end of April to become the Clay County School District’s Director of Operations, Safety and Security.
John Ward will move into his new role following the retirement of Bruce Harvin. Ward’s experience in county security, particularly with schools, should make for an easy transition, he said.
“I’ve been involved with planning, training and exercises that [Clay County] has continually done with the school district,” Ward said. “Even before all of this that has surfaced recently [school security following the Parkland shooting], we’ve trained on active shooter incidents, worked with administrators on planning and Bruce Harvin was the director of safety and security then. He’s retired so this position became open, and I’ve always had an interest in school safety so it’s really just bringing skills and lessons learned to the district to help them improve even more.”
Ward was an obvious choice due to his history and skillset with the district, school superintendent Addison Davis said.
“He’s a significant plus for us,” Davis said. “He is bringing such a rich history and knowledge and set of skills. Bringing him on only makes us stronger as an organization.”
Ward will come in at a unique time as a director of security, among other things, as the school district is currently completing its efforts towards having its very own police department. Because Ward will be involved with school safety, he’ll be working side-by-side with the department’s Chief of Police, Kenneth Wagner, according to Davis.
Ward is excited to work with Wagner and the school district’s police department, but he also plans to work with many others.
“We will not only work side-by-side with [Wagner] but side-by-side with emergency management, fire and rescue, the sheriff’s office and city police departments,” Ward said. “It’s an all-hands-on-deck if something is happening. It’s a one-team one-fight mindset so all of those organizations will be more partners in the fold of work here.”
Ward will be determining district response plans to fires, storms and emergency situations or a threat to security. Because each school has its own geographical location and structure build, each school requires a meticulously detailed plan to ensure the safety of everyone at the school. Ward and his staff will also be assisting the effort to make plans for and train teachers.
“We are really going to be continuing that training and planning for our teachers and administrators,” he said. “Teachers and administrators are there to teach – we want them there to teach our kids – but they might be a first responder if a storm came through or something like that. We want them to know what to do, to know how to react until the actual first responders got there.”
Davis sees Ward as not only a great hire for the position, but a great win for the school district’s overall security.
“Bringing on John Ward just further tells us that we’re doing the right things and that great people want to come work with this organization,” Davis said. “This just strengthens and validates that safety is our priority. We have individuals ready and geared up to protect our students.”
On the county side of things, Interim Clay County Manager Lorin Mock said that Ward’s notice date was April 30, which lines up with Ward’s start date with the school district in May. Similar to the county’s current search for a new County Manager, the county will select someone to serve as an Interim Emergency Management Director.
Fortunately for the county, though, Ward won’t be leaving his position high and dry, he said.
“[Davis] has offered to allow me to meet and assist over here [Clay County] until they get that position filled,” Ward said. “They’re not being left high and dry. I’ll still be involved in the community and like I said, I built this program here, so I wouldn’t want to leave them like that.”