After several months of discussion and a virtually nonexistent response from the public, the Riverside Board of Education on Sept. 22 quietly voted to hire an armed guard to patrol the Riverside school building and campus during school hours. On the recommendation and advice of Logan County Sheriff Andy Smith, the resource officer, as the position will be known, will be filled by retired or auxiliary peace officers.
Superintendent Scott Mann said the resource officer will start the first shift on the campus Oct. 12. The plan calls for two officers to be hired and they are expected rotate work days and weeks. The resource officer will earn $17.50 an hour while on duty.
The decision to make the resource officer position available was one of several items, including the monthly budget and other routine matters, in the treasurer’s report at the Sept. 22 meeting. The board offered no discussion on the resource officer position and accepted the report without a dissenting vote.
The Riverside BOE made national headlines in November 2014 when it first publicly considered whether to have an armed response of some kind on the campus to protect the students and staff in case of an emergency, such as occurred at Newtown or Columbine.
In December 2014, the Riverside BOE made arrangements to move its regular meeting to the to the auditeria to accommodate what it expected to be a throng of parents and students who wanted to weigh in on the matter. On the first occasion, only one parent offered a question about the proposal to the board. For the second meeting, the board did not bother to change the venue, since no one attended to discuss the matter.
Board member Robert Bender was the only board member who publicly voiced his dissatisfaction with the community’s non-response.
“Frankly, I’m disappointed that we have such a low number of parents here,” Bender told those in attendance at the January meeting. “On the good side, I guess they trust us to make the right decision.”
Superintendent Scott Mann, Sheriff Smith and Chief Deputy Randy Dodds recently visited the Sidney City School to learn more about its armed response program. Being many times larger than Riverside in terms of enrollment, Sidney has several school buildings and its BOE made the decision to install firearms in lockboxes in the various locations. The lockboxes are accessible only by fingerprint scans of staff who receive special training.
The Riverside BOE agreed that the installation of lockboxes would not be practical for the Riverside campus and, instead, decided to create the position of resource office.
Superintendent frustrated by conflicting rules
The only person to express dissatisfaction at the Sept. 22 meeting was Superintendent Mann, but this was on a far different matter. Mann emphatically read a statement to the board outlining the exasperation he and other superintendents and administrators felt following a recent regional meeting.
“Frustrated” was the word Mann used to describe his and others’ feelings following the meeting. Conflicting and superfluous new rules and regulations pop up on a yearly basis, he said, which the schools are expected to implement and enforce, only to be contradicted again the next year, prompting yet another change in policy. Rather than ease the burden on local school districts, Mann said, the constantly changing guidelines add confusion and impede schools’ ability to act with order and proficiency.
Treasurer Jennifer Blackford presented to the board her five-year forecast as required by law and reported that, contrary to the budget initially proposed by Gov. Kasich, the Riverside School District will see a revenue increase of $258,900 in FY 2016, with a similar increase expected in FY 2017. Blackford warned the board that these numbers – especially projections more that three years out – will be adjusted as new budgets are implemented over the next several years. Blackford did not go as far to say that an accurate five-year forecast was impossible, but said that, at best, it is extremely difficult to give anything better than an educated guess for FY 2018 and beyond.
Blackford set three goals for her office for the next year. First, evaluate Special Education services, which will cost the school district $1.81 million in 2015, and ensure that the services are making the best use of the money. Second, Blackford expects that the roof of the school building will need replaced within the next decade, with an estimated cost (as of this month) of $800,000. Blackford suggested that the district set aside $100,000 each year so that when the time comes, the district will have the cash to pay for the work, rather than having to ask for a levy or pull it out of the general fund. Lastly, Blackford wants to modernize the office processes – payroll, banking, and especially the use of paper, which accounts for a large percentage of office expenditures.
The board approved invoices and expenditures paid in the amount of $449,352.65 for the general fund, and $108,287.13 for all other funds for a total of $557,639.78 for the month of August 2015.
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.