The Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (CISD) Board of Trustees unanimously approved the appointment of Josh Gutierrez as interim school district police chief last Wednesday, filling the vacancy left following the firing of Pete Arredondo.
State law enforcement officials identified Arredondo as the incident commander during the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in May, where a gunman was left inside the building for over an hour, killing 21 people, including 19 children.
Gutierrez’s confirmation is just the latest turnover at Uvalde CISD. In October, former Superintendent Hal Harrell retired at the school board’s request. The board also suspended the entire school district’s police force, stating it would reassess how it hires officers.
The board installed interim Superintendent Gary Patterson to replace Harrell until a permanent hire is chosen. Patterson said he previously worked with Gutierrez at two other Texas school districts, noting their collaboration spanned decades.
“This is our first step in taking to rebuild our school district police force with baby steps, with very careful consideration of who comes into the department — people with integrity and professionalism,” said Patterson at his first school board meeting as interim superintendent.
It took Patterson nearly four minutes to read through Gutierrez’s accolades.
Those include a Master Peace Officer certification from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE); a teacher’s and principal’s certification; a certificate in special education; and time served as a TCOLE instructor, associate principal, and assistant principal.
Gutierrez most recently served as the director of Bexar County Learning Center; a school located inside a juvenile correction center in San Antonio.
“My eyes are wide open to the scrutiny of our district police department and I’m fully aware, and our board is fully aware, of how careful we must be to make sure we’re taking the right steps,” Patterson said. “I would not recommend Josh for this job if I didn’t believe in Josh.
“He brings a very unique perspective to the job that I’ve never seen,” Patterson added.
Patterson also revealed that Uvalde CISD is forging a partnership with East Central School District, where he previously served as superintendent. ECSD is an officially certified site for active shooter training, emergency operations training, school resource officer training, and gun and rifle training.
“We will have a close working relationship with them so we can get the training right away,” Patterson said about the new police force.
Patterson added that TCOLE contributed a blueprint to Uvalde CISD — written by retired and active police chiefs around the state — on how to build a police force for a school.
“My observation as an outsider is that many times, we’ve seen this room filled with a lack of trust, anger, and frustration,” Patterson said at the start of the meeting. “My hope is that we can all work to make that better.”
New Elementary School Site Approved
In addition to appointing an interim police chief, the board also approved a site for a new elementary school.
The new $50 million two-story, 39-classroom facility will effectively replace Robb Elementary School, which has been slated for demolition.
“With this evening’s approval of the site and conceptual design by the UCISD school board, we now move to the schematic design phase of the project,” stated Tim Miller, executive director of the Uvalde CISD Moving Forward Foundation.
The new school will be built next to Dalton Elementary, which some former Robb students currently attend, just a couple of miles from the site of the massacre.
Construction of the new school will begin next summer, with expected completion by the fall of 2024.