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Updated Feb 14, 2013 - 4:01 pm

Scottsdale parents hire armed guards for school

Scottsdale Police Officer Janice Samora guards El Dorado Private School in Scottsdale, Ariz. (Bob McClay/KTAR)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Sandy Hook School shootings in Connecticut have led parents at a private school in Scottsdale to take extra steps to keep their kids safe.

El Dorado Private School had no extra money to increase security so parents got to work.

"We banded together and formed a committee, literally within an hour or two of the incident in Connecticut," said School Safety Co-Chair Brian Bratspis.

They decided to hire armed off-duty Scottsdale police officers to patrol the campus and pay for it themselves.

"Each parent is willing to pay between $200 and $300 dollars for the entire school year," Bratspis said.

The group hired eight officers that rotate duty and protect the school's 261 students, who range in age from preschoolers to eighth graders.

Officer Janice Semora is one of the officers. Every Tuesday, she gives up her day off and comes to the school in a squad car in full uniform, including her gun.

She has spent her days walking around the campus, talking with students and making sure everything is as it should be.

Having her there has already paid off for the school. She had to summon the fire department on Tuesday.

"We had a haze that built up in one of the classrooms, and an odor," said Semora. "We weren't sure if we had an electrical problem or a fire that may have been up in the rafters that we weren't seeing. We evacuated and had the fire department come out and check everything out."

Instead of taking precious minutes to notify administration and have them call 911, Semora used her police radio to summon fire crews quickly. The fire department later gave the all clear and classes resumed.

Semora said school safety and facing a similar incident to the Connecticut shootings has been on her mind long before she became a police officer.

"I was a teacher before I became a law enforcement officer and thought about it back then," she said. "I was getting my degree when the Columbine incident occurred. I was in school when that happened. This has always been something that's near and dear to my heart."

Principal Linda McDermott signed off on the idea and said it's an example of how parents at her school step up to the plate and get involved in their child's education.

Bratspis hopes that El Dorado will be an example to every other school in the country. He believes that parents at any school can take the same action they did and it doesn't cost very much. He said that if parents commit to contributing about $10 to $20 per month, they can hire armed officers for their campus without the school having to spend any more money.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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