Who should take lead in effort to get more SROs?
By Karen Sells
“We can’t hire a teacher, a superintendent or a food service worker; we can only make recommendations,” Commissioner Sam Humphreys said during last week’s Public Safety Committee meeting. “It’s up to the school board to set up a task force, set a budget and fund it. And if they don’t have enough (money), then they can come to the commission.”
Sheriff Ed Graybeal said an immediate response in the schools is what’s needed, and the effort has to start somewhere.
According to Director of Schools Ron Dykes, the board has taken the lead in adding SROs with the help of the sheriff, but the system is far from having one assigned to every school.
“The world is changing rapidly as we sit and wait,” Dykes said.
No Board of Education members were present at the Public Safety Committee meeting to discuss their justification in adding 10 new SROs, which Graybeal estimates will cost $1 million during the first year, plus recurring salary expenses.
Graybeal said having an SRO in each school is the best protection the system could have, adding he knows of a county that recently added 32 to its roll.
County Attorney John Rambo pointed out the estimated cost would likely double with the portion legally required to go to the city school system. “The school board and the Budget Committee will have to work it out,” he said.
Commissioner Pete Speropulos made a motion to refer the need for funding to the Budget Committee. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Sam Phillips and passed with Humphreys abstaining.
“I’m not opposed, but it needs to go to the Board of Education,” Humphreys said.
Budget Committee members agreed.
“We can’t dictate the number of teachers or the locks on the doors, how can we dictate the SROs?” Commissioner Mitch Meredith asked.
Mayor Dan Eldridge said Board of Education members need to evaluate the threats facing each school and determine if SROs will meet the needs or if different security measures should be added.
“We took the request from Mr. Dykes as coming from the Board of Education,” said Speropulos, a member of both committees.
Meredith said it needs to be directly from BOE members, and Speropulos made a motion for Eldridge to ask the school board to submit a formal request. Commissioner Ethan Flynn seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
“The worst thing that we could have is a false sense of security,” Eldridge said. “Before we spend $2 million and commit to $1.4 million in recurring costs, we need to ensure we are getting the best safety precautions for the money.”
A called meeting of the Board of Education to discuss safety is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 21, at 5 p.m. in the Central Office building.