By Ken Stone
Amid a spate of school shootings nationwide and local online threats, the Grossmont Union High School District has created a new position: director of school safety.
This week, the school board hired 30-year Sheriff’s Department veteran Maria Wood for the job — effective July 1.
Her position was developed with input from top area law enforcement officials to refine the district’s safety priorities, officials said.
Wood, a lifelong resident of East County who graduated from Grossmont High School, saw her children graduate from GUHSD schools.
Her salary wasn’t specified, but a job posting said the position would pay between $103,773 and $123,862 a year.
Over the course of her Sheriff’s Department career, Wood served in a variety of leadership positions.
As a lieutenant and captain, Wood was part of the Aerial Support Detail – ASTREA or Aerial Support to Regional Enforcement Agencies. As a captain in 2017, she made $243,061 in regular pay and benefits, according to Transparent California.
“The depth and breadth of Maria’s extensive emergency planning background and her local law enforcement connections are going to take GUHSD to the next level in providing safe, secure environments for our students and staff,” said Tim Glover, GUHSD superintendent.
In a statement, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore congratulated Wood and the high school district or selecting her.
“During her 30 years of service with the Sheriff’s Department, Maria was known as a leader and trendsetter for our department,” Gore said.
Wood adds another layer of security to a district that already has school resource officers at its nine comprehensive high schools in East County and IDEA Center/Chaparral in El Cajon.
“Early in her career as deputy and sergeant, Maria became recognized as a subject matter expert relating to emergency operations while leading critical incidents,” Gore said. “This path in her career eventually evolved into her final assignment where as a captain, she was selected to lead the Sheriff’s Department of Emergency Services Division.”
In this role, he said, Wood was responsible for developing programs and policies, de-conflicted and coordinated new initiatives, and provided professional management and direction of critical units, divisions and programs.
El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis said: “Maria is a great choice. She brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to the position. Plus, she’s a great person.”
Besides Davis, La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez served as an adviser in defining qualifications for the position.
“The decision by GUHSD to create this new position raises the bar throughout the region and demonstrates the district’s deep commitment to strengthening student and staff safety,” Vasquez said.
The 21,000-student district has been the scene of gun violence in the past, especially in 2001 when Santana High student Charles Andrew Williams, 15, killed two and wounded 13 at the Santee school.
About three weeks later, Jason Hoffman, 18, shot and wounded three students and two teachers at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon.
Grossmont isn’t the first to hire a safety director. In fact, San Diego Unified has its own police department. Other districts with a safety director or coordinator include Cajon Valley Union School District, Oceanside and Chula Vista, according to the county Office of Education (which also has a security chief).
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: