Rowan-Salisbury board wants resource officers for middle schools

EAST SPENCER — The school board hopes to bring resource officers back to all Rowan County middle schools.

In other school board business

At Monday’s meeting, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education also:

• Discussed the possible creation of a system-wide recycling policy. Board member Susan Cox said she has been told that staff members pick up discarded school materials once a year and take them to the Long Street warehouse, where they are then taken for recycling.

But Gene Miller, assistant superintendent of operations, said he isn’t aware of this practice. State staff members used to pick up old textbooks for recycling, he said, but they don’t anymore. For the past several years, each school has been responsible for its own recycling.

Board member L.A. Overcash asked if the school system has a recycling policy, and Gene Miller said it does not — only guidelines for state-supplied materials. Chairman Richard Miller then suggested that the appropriate directors and assistant superintendents look into whether such a policy is needed, in light of this confusion.

• Honored Superintendent Judy Grissom and Gene Miller at their last board meeting before they retire next Monday. Before a slide show played featuring various moments of Grissom’s tenure, she was given flowers and a plaque in honor of “her steadfast dedication to the teachers and staff of Rowan-Salisbury Schools.”

The school board also recognized Bonnie Holder, board clerk and Grissom’s executive assistant, who is moving to a new position as administrative assistant to Alesia Burnette, director of elementary education and Title I.

• Approved a field trip request from East Rowan High School for the Future Business Leaders of America competition March 20-22 in Greensboro.

• Heard an update about the new Crosby Scholars program from director Jennifer Canipe. She said the free college access program now has more than 1,200 students enrolled systemwide — 617 in the middle schools and 601 in the high schools.

• Heard an update about the new Pathways to Prosperity program from Dr. Julie Morrow. The network of high schools, colleges and employers would develop systems of career pathways for local students in regional labor markets.

• Delayed a discussion of safety concerns about Knox Middle School raised by board member Chuck Hughes, because Hughes was not present at the meeting.

• Appointed Patricia Overcash, a secondary licensure specialist, as the new board clerk and executive assistant to the superintendent.

• Met in closed session to approve the monthly personnel report, approve closed session minutes and receive an update on the school board’s budget mediation with county commissioners.

• Agreed to meet with new superintendent Lynn Moody for a retreat on Oct. 12.

• Rescheduled the November board meeting to Nov. 20 at 4 p.m.

And one school system official said Monday they’re needed. Discipline problems are on the rise, with a quarter of the incidents the system reports to the state coming from middle schools last year.

On Monday, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education approved a draft grant application presented by Nathan Currie, assistant superintendent of administration. The application deadline is Oct. 11, and the state will award the grants on Dec. 1.

The board voted 6-0 to approve the application. Board member Chuck Hughes missed the meeting.

Currie said the number of school resource officers that any school system can apply for is based on its average daily membership. Rowan County qualifies for five.

The school board included $276,000 for resource officers in this year’s budget, anticipating the grant’s two-to-one local match requirement. For five officers, that match would actually be $70,000. The total requested money from the state (including up to $14,000 for training) is $154,000.

“We’ve had conversations with the middle school principals, and they are excited about the notion of having SROs back in our school system,” Currie said. “Remember, they were in our system until I think the 2009-10 school year, where several cuts were made, including all seven of the SROs from middle schools.”

Currently, only one of the seven middle schools in the Rowan-Salisbury School System has a resource officer. The officer at Knox Middle School is funded through the city of Salisbury.

If the system gets a grant to fund five officers, that still leaves one school without an resource officer. Currie said he is proposing that the school system fund an additional resource officer for $51,000 per year.

“The commitment from the school board with an additional SRO would be $121,000 per year,” Currie said. “Essentially, that’s a $155,000 savings from what board budgeted for last month.”

The state will award grants according to need, based on school crime and violence rates, the number of disadvantaged children and the county population. Some statistics in the draft grant proposal show how the Rowan-Salisbury School System meets these criteria, Currie said.

School systems are required to report 16 “reportable offenses” to the state. These include bomb threats and hoaxes, underage drinking, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm or other weapon on campus, assault involving a weapon or resulting in serious injury, robbery with a dangerous weapon, sexual offenses and homicide.

In the 2011-12 school year, Currie said, 14 percent of Rowan-Salisbury’s reportable offenses came from middle schools. In 2012-13, that number rose to 24 percent. Currie also said that in the past year, 31 percent of the system’s short-term suspensions (10 days or fewer) came from its middle schools.

“There’s definitely a need. We’re seeing an increase in discipline,” he said.

He said the officers’ training would have three components. The first — that they obtain school resource officer certification — is required.

The second piece is involvement in the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program, where officers would be responsible for talking to students about gang awareness. The third piece is a program called Connected Schools, which all middle schools are taking part in, Currie said. It would teach the officers about building relationships with students and staff.

“We certainly don’t want to take a police officer off the street and place them in a school environment, because that can be a totally different world,” he said. “So there will be training.”

Eventually, Currie said he would like to make resource officers available to both middle and elementary schools.

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.



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