The West Liberty-Salem Board of Education approved contracting with the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office to have a school resource officer at the school for the upcoming school year.
Following a special meeting Aug. 29, Superintendent Kraig Hissong said discussions about adding a school resource officer started in the spring following the Jan. 20 school shooting.
“(Champaign County) Sheriff (Matt) Melvin and I had several conversations. We looked at what Graham was doing with their resource officer,” Hissong said. “He and I worked together to develop a job description for one year at the school. That information was shared with the board.”
Hissong said the school board contracted a person to work in this capacity for the school in May to finish the school year and up until that point sheriff deputies would patrol the school.
“It’s a security measure so their role is to basically come and be a presence here on-site,” Hissong said about the resource officer. “If a situation were to occur it allows us to have a first responder here on-site to respond to that instead of relying on our administration who certainly proved that they could do a good job with that on Jan. 20 but at the same time we want to make it so that we have some other insurances and trained professionals to help us with that.”
Hissong said another role the resource officer would perform is providing information to the school district on how to better secure the building and improve emergency plans.
The contract with the sheriff’s office will be for one year and based on 185 days.
The pay rate and benefits of the officer will be determined by the sheriff’s office based on the individual’s qualifying credentials.
Melvin stated interviews for the resource officer position were held and a selection would be forthcoming. He added the deputy will be in place on the first day of school.
Melvin noted this is the second school resource officer from the sheriff’s office within community schools as Graham implemented an officer during the 2016-2017 school year.
Once the school resource officer is chosen, the board will ratify them to serve during the next school board meeting.
Heading into the new school year, Hissong said the school has taken several measures to improve school security including additional security cameras, new locks on doors and emergency windows that make it easier to escape during an active shooting or another kind of emergency, and adding ballistic resistant laminate to windows and doors.
Another action the board approved during the meeting was posting of a part-time school counselor position to supplement and provide additional counseling or therapy resources to students for the upcoming school year.
Hissong said since the school shooting there has been an increase in the number of students who need counseling services.
“Fortunately we are receiving some additional time right now for a counselor from Consolidated Care, however, they feel like we could really use somebody here full-time,” Hissong said. “What this would do is supplement the part that we’re getting basically for free through Consolidated Care and would provide the person to be here full-day. They think that’s important because different things can trigger people to have emotional moments and they feel like the person ought to be here in order to be able to cover and make sure they have enough assistance.”
Hissong noted the district is seeking a federal and state grant to cover all of the cost associated with this position.
“The two grants that I’m speaking of here one is a $250,000 grant specifically associated with the fact that we’ve had a school shooting, it’s from the federal government – we are writing that grant still currently,” Hissong said. “That $250,000 could go to help pay for this and if we are awarded go back and help pay for all of the other safety improvements that we’ve made to the school district including the windows, the security film, all of those items.”
Another grant Hissong said the school has received is a grant that was originally intended for Adriel before the facility closed. Hissong said the school will receive money from this grant for another year and it could be used towards the counseling.
If the school is not approved for grants, general funds would be used to fund the position.
The position would be for 180 days and for one-year unless an extension would be recommended by the superintendent and approved by the board of education.
In other action:
•The board approved the memorandum of understanding between the West Liberty-Salem Board of Education and the West Liberty-Salem Education Association and approved the terms regarding additional compensations for students above the 25:1 student:teacher ratio as stated in the negotiated agreement for grades K-4.
•The board approved Rhonda Renee Arnold as a full-time teacher assigned to high school English for the 2017-2018 school year on a one-year contract.
•The board approved Leslie Bahan for a one-year contract as a part-time paraprofessional.
•The board approved a contract for H&S Asphalt, LLC, to pave the student and staff parking lot next to the high wing of the building at the cost of $87,650.