Meet the Team

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Leslie Etheridge

Director of Center for Safe and Secure Schools
Email: leetheridge@hcde-texas.org

Leslie Etheridge, a seasoned law enforcement veteran with 28 years of experience, leads HCDE’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools (CSSS). With a strong background in school safety and a genuine passion for children, she aims to lead CSSS towards growth and effective service delivery. Etheridge emphasizes the need for tailored solutions in school safety and aims to adapt programs and training to fit each unique school environment.

As director, Etheridge oversees various initiatives and programs focused on school safety and culture. Her extensive experience includes roles within the New York Police Department and Texas Southern University, where she conducted emergency training courses, created safety plans for large events, and worked on school safety programs.

Etheridge holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from John Jay College. She is an active community member and has organized afterschool programs, mentored girls, coordinated D.A.R.E programs, and facilitated a summer Youth Police Academy.  

She is also a member of various organizations, including the National Organization of Black Law-Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association (FBI-LEEDA), Historically Black Colleges & Universities, Law-Enforcement Executives & Administrators (HBCU LEEA), Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), and the Star of Hope Grand Chapter-Order of The Eastern Star.

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Gil Gaona

Administrative Assistant
Email: ggaona@hcde-texas.org

Gil Gaona is the administrative assistant to Leslie Etheridge, the director of the Center for Safe and Secure Schools. He has worked with HCDE for the past two years as an administrative assistant, first with the Teaching and Learning Center and now with the CSSS. After 20 years of teaching Spanish and 18 years as a student council adviser, he moved home to take care of his mother. After twelve years of caregiving and accounting work with a transportation company, he returned to Houston.

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Jeremy Foster

Officer of School Safety and Security
Email: Jeremy.Foster@hcde-texas.org 

Jeremy Foster has over 30 years of safety and security experience. Jeremy has a bachelor's degree in administration of justice from the University of Missouri. He has instructed police organizations, major corporations, CEOs, hospitals, and educational organizations in violence prevention, personal safety, and self-defense. His previous experience includes operating as the chief instructor for a nationally renowned violence prevention and personal safety program called Counter Attactics. He was also the safety and security emergency manager and active shooter response trainer for Alief ISD since 2013. Jeremy has over 20 years of varied educational experience, including working in special education with emotionally disturbed children. Jeremy truly believes in education and wants to do his part to make schools safe and secure for our students.

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Janice Owolabi

School Safety and Security Specialist
Email: jowolabi@hcde-texas.org

Janice Owolabi is a passionate educator who believes strong school culture, high academic expectations and a safe secure environment are the most important ingredients in providing children with a successful education. She currently serves as the School Safety and Security Specialist, providing an educator’s lens when dealing with emergency operations needs at the district and school level. She is a certified trainer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Incident Command System (ICS) and National Incident Management System (NIMS). She provides training in Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) Development, Standard Response Protocol (SRP), and Standard Reunification Method (SRM).   She is the lead school safety auditor and provides safety and security audit service solutions for several districts in the area.  With over 15 years of experience in the education arena, Janice has served in many positions, from classroom teacher to school administration leadership team. Janice graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and is currently a member of the Red Cross Disaster Assistance Team for Harris County.

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Sergio Lopez

School Safety and Security Specialist
Email: Sergio.Lopez@hcde-texas.org

Sergio Lopez has over 15 years of experience working as an athletic coach, teacher, and school administrator with public school districts in Harris County. Most recently, he was the campus administrator responsible for safety, security, and daily campus operations. Sergio received his bachelor's degree in kinesiology from the University of Texas-Pan American. After several years, he decided to advance his career by pursuing a master's degree in educational administration from Lamar University. As a safety and security specialist, Sergio is ready to help and share his knowledge to assist campuses around Harris County.

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Michelle Calhoun

Climate and Culture Specialist

Email: Mcalhoun@hcde-texas.org

Michelle Calhoun is a compassionate and dedicated educator who believes that high expectations, empathy, consistency, and understanding, are paramount in fostering student success. She currently serves as the Climate and Culture Specialist, providing a mental health perspective on topics such as restorative practices, social emotional learning, youth mental health, educator self-care, emotional intelligence, relationship building, and conflict resolution. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and a certified professional school counselor. Additionally, she has been trained in Advanced Trauma for Children, Trauma-Focused CBT, Cognitive Behavior Interventions for Trauma in Schools, and restorative practices.

Michelle has over 18 years of experience in working with students of various ages, backgrounds and academic levels as a former school counselor, special education teacher, and in private practice. Michelle holds a B.A. in Political Science, an M.A. in Counseling, and is a current doctoral candidate in Counselor Education and Supervision. She is a proud HBCU alum (Texas Southern University, Prairie View A&M University, Southern University), and a member of several professional and service-orientated organizations including the American Counseling Association, Texas Counseling Association, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. 

Contact Us

  • Center for Safe and Secure Schools
    A Division of Harris County Department of Education
    6005 Westview
    Houston, TX 77055

    Phone: 713-696-0771


    Staff Directory