Officials from Knox County Schools have announced their pick to replace longtime Chief of Security Gus Paidousis when he retires next month.
Jason Periard’s first day on the job will be Aug.1, according to Superintendent Bob Thomas.
Periard is currently vice president of the Community Security Initiative at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which represents the security of over 500 institutions, including more than 100 schools.
Before that, Periard served 21 years on active duty in the United States Marine Corps where he held numerous security and law enforcement leadership positions throughout the world. He worked as a Special Agent for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and as an Investigations Officer for the USMC Criminal Investigation Division.
“I am thrilled and honored for the chance to serve with Knox County Schools,” said Periard. “Safety is an essential part of the district’s educational mission, and I look forward to helping foster a vibrant environment that supports learning in each of the district’s schools.”
Periard will be taking over the security division during a time of intense controversy over the role of police and armed security in the school system.
The controversy began early last month when Board members Daniel Watson and Evetty Satterfield proposed that the school system review its memorandum of agreement (MOA) with extensive input from the community. Their proposal seemed harmless enough, but the timing couldn’t have been worse.
What followed was a chaotic free-for-all of claims and counter-claims about the role and value of the School Resource Officer (SRO) programs run by the Knoxville Police Department and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, all of it taking place against the background of public outrage over the killing of a 17-year-old boy by police at Austin-East Magnet High School.
Anthony Thompson Jr., a junior at Austin-East, was involved in an April 12 domestic dispute with his estranged girlfriend on the school campus. When four KPD officers tried to arrest him in a school restroom for domestic assault, Thompson struggled and a pistol in his hoodie went off. One of the officers then fired two shots, killing Thompson and wounding the school’s SRO.
The status of the MOA as well as both the size and the composition of the armed security force that will guard the county’s 88 schools
is are all up in the air right now, guaranteeing that Periard will have to deal with both controversy and crisis from his first day on the job.
Thomas, however, had nothing but confidence in his new security chief.
“Protecting the safety and security of our students, employees and school communities is vitally important,” Thomas said. “I believe that Mr. Periard’s experience in law enforcement, program development and project management and his commitment to fostering strong relationships between educators and security professionals make him an outstanding choice to lead the Security Department.”
He added: “I also believe that Mr. Periard’s experience in diverse, multi-cultural communities and his emphasis on earning public trust will support our district’s efforts to promote a positive culture and make all students feel welcome.”
Published on June 14, 2021