School Board signs SRO agreements

Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 6/13/18

FLEMING ISLAND – All Clay County high schools and junior high schools are set to receive resource officers until the end of the 2019 school year.

During its regular June 7 meeting at Fleming …

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School Board signs SRO agreements

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – All Clay County high schools and junior high schools are set to receive resource officers until the end of the 2019 school year.

During its regular June 7 meeting at Fleming Island High, the Clay County School Board voted to approve four different agreements that work together to ensure junior high and high schools receive the added security of a resource officer on campus during school hours. These agreements were created in collaboration with the Board of County Commissioners, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Green Cove Springs and the Town of Orange Park, and their respective police departments.

The first agreement signed was between the board, the BCC and CCSO, and lasts from July 1 to September 30, 2018. This agreement acts to put a school resource officer in Bannerman Learning Center, Keystone Heights High, Clay High, Middleburg High, Fleming Island High, Ridgeview High, Orange Park High and Oakleaf High. It also stations an SRO in Wilkinson Junior High, Lakeside Junior High, Lake Asbury Junior High and Oakleaf Junior High.

This agreement, as well as the other three signed that night, come as a way to abide by the recently-passed, but significantly underfunded, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act that requires each Florida school district to assign at least one SRO to every school using one of three given options: SROs, school guardians via the Guardian Program, or outside security forces. These options can be used in any combination as well. For the past four months, the Clay County School District and Board have worked to comply with the new act via multiple meetings and negotiations among elected officials.

The first agreement signed will come with a cost of $245, 878 from the district’s general fund, but during the meeting, Superintendent Addison Davis said that there is a chance the BCC covers this cost.

“Mrs. Kopelousos did call me today and she said that the BCC potentially would be willing – she’d have to have a conversation with them – to cover the $245,000 if the school district was willing to have a three-year agreement resolution to use our gymnasiums in order to allow, whether it be PAL, or YMCA, to continue to engage with our school system and use, after hours, our gyms, in order to give places for kids to participate in the evening,” Davis said.

While nothing is official, if the BCC were to follow through with this, Davis said the board would need to make an official motion to approve such a plan and ensure that it is financially sound, as the board would still be responsible for providing supervisors to these areas after hours and paying for things like heating and air conditioning.

The second agreement signed during the meeting was essentially a continuation of the first agreement. This second one would see SROs maintain their occupation in the schools listed above from October 1, 2018, to September 30, 2019. Doing so will cost the school board $1,923,669, and will come from the general fund. Both of these agreements not only place an SRO in the 12 listed schools, but also provide one lieutenant, two sergeants, one investigator, two relief SROs and one training deputy for additional services related to the SROs.

Despite these 12 schools receiving the boosted security, there are still a number of Clay County schools not covered in those two agreements. That’s because the school board signed two more agreements that utilize the Green Cove Police Department and Orange Park Police Department in place of CCSO. To that end, the school board signed an agreement with the Town of Orange and its police department to use their already existing DARE officers as SROs. These officers will continue to provide DARE educational assistance but now, they’ll be acting as the SROs for their respective schools as well. These schools include Grove Park Elementary, Orange Park Elementary and Orange Park Junior High. In total, this agreement will cost the school board $210,801 and last from July 1 to June 30, 2019.

The fourth and final agreement is virtually the same as the third, and is a collaboration between the school board, the City of Green Cove Springs and its police department. This agreement also lasts from July 1 to June 30, 2019, but it costs less with a total of $143, 534. It places an SRO in Charles E. Bennett Elementary and Green Cove Springs Junior High.

Board members virtually had no discussion on the agreements, while Davis explained that the BCC might potentially cover the cost of the first agreement. Because each of these four agreements were met with a motion that passed 5-0, it would seem that the school board is in complete and total agreement.

How they’re going to afford the new security plan is a question met with some dissension amongst the school board members.

When it was time to vote, the board voted 3-2 to approve a ballot measure asking voters to approve a one-mill tax to fund the new security program, with the balance being used for operating expenses. Board members Mary Bolla, Janice Kerekes and Carol Studdard voted yes, while Betsy Condon and Ashley Gilhousen voted no.

“Shall an additional one (1) mill of School District ad valorem millage tax, beginning July 1, 2019, and ending June 30, 2023, be approved to enhance the safety and security of students and staff, and provide for necessary operating expenses of the School District?” the ballot question reads.

According to Condon, her constituents claim the ballot measure is too vague. She also stated that she feels the board has not yet scrubbed the budget enough in an effort to free up additional funds.

“I don’t feel confident that we have scrubbed every single line item of our budget to look for additional ways that we can find funds differently, and think differently,” Condon said.

These sentiments were echoed by Gilhousen, who also voted no. Despite Gildhousen and Condon’s votes, this ballot question will be seen by voters who make their way to the polls come August.

Comments

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Pamela Jordan

Citizens must realize that voting for this measure will help protect our students in an increasingly unstable world. An additional 1 mill tax is a more practical way to meet the needs of our children than a sales tax, not to mention less painful financially for the citizens. An increase of a few dollars once a year is, in my opinion, better than paying increased sales tax on every item bought.

Thursday, June 14