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Wahluke School District hires new safety and security coordinator

by RACHAL PINKERTON
Staff Writer | March 31, 2021 1:00 AM

MATTAWA — The Wahluke School District hired JJ Calzadillas as the new safety and security coordinator, as the position was empty since Shelby Jensen left in 2019.

The school district hired with Community Oriented Policing Services grant money received by the Mattawa Police Department. While the position formerly focused on student policing, it will now update the district’s safety and security policies and make changes as needed.

“I am going through the systems,” Calzadillas said. “I want to get opened up to the public.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, school district facilities were available for public use. Along with the other pandemic shutdowns, the district also closed its buildings.

“We’re trying to get opened back up to the public to use safely,” Calzadillas said.

Calzadillas is in his fourth year at the Wahluke School District. Prior to his new position, he worked in life skills at Wahluke High School. He also helped create the Frontline Warriors at the junior high and taught a barbershop class as part of the program.

Prior to working at the school district, Calzadillas was a correctional officer at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities Work Release program.

Calzadillas, originally from Burbank, Washington, made the move to Mattawa at a time when the Department of Corrections was undergoing a series of changes.

“One of my best friends was applying to be a teacher in Mattawa,” Calzadillas said. “He was like, ‘You should come check it out.’”

Not only did Calzadillas get hired by the school district, but so did his wife and daughter, his best friend, as well as other family members.

“There are quite a few of us out here,” Calzadillas said. “It’s kinda crazy. Honestly, I didn’t know if they would hire me because I don’t have a teaching degree.”

Despite not having a teaching degree, Calzadillas has life experience he has shared with Wahluke students.

“I have my own business,” Calzadillas said. “I have been a barber for 28 years. They saw potential in me. That’s how we were able to create Frontline Warriors.”

During his time in the district, Calzadillas has also coached football, basketball and tennis. Currently, he is coaching football.

Calzadillas assumed his new role March 22. He said so far, things are going smoothly and he hopes it stays that way.

“I have great support out here,” he said. “Andy Harlow (Wahluke School District superintendent) and DJ Garza (student support services director), my supervisor, have been a great help. That is one of the great things about this school system, everyone is willing to help each other. I’ve met with the principals. Everyone is quick to lend a hand.”

As Calzadillas settles into his new role, he will work with a nationwide company to help each school streamline it’s emergency responses and work on practicing drills, such as fire, earthquake and active-shooter, each month. He will also be putting his correctional officer experience to use by figuring out ways to defeat procedures and, in turn, make them better.

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The Wahluke School District has hired JJ Calzadillas as the district's new safety and security coordinator. Among his duties will be streamlining safety procedures at Wahluke High School (pictured) and other district schools.