FLORENCE — County Commission Chairman Dewey Mitchell said the commission is looking to fill one vacant school resource officer position and will take a close look at the possibility of filling a third.
Lauderdale schools Superintendent Jennifer Gray sent a letter to the commission last week requesting a total of three school resource officers. Gray met with the commission during its work session Tuesday to discuss her proposal.
“After looking at the needs and the distance between the schools, we just felt two officers could not adequately do the job properly,” Gray said.
Currently, the school system has one school resource officer who is shared among the 11 county schools. The officer provides security among other duties at the school.
Gray said if there are three officers, they would be divided among the schools.
She said the school board has agreed to share costs for the three officers as well as provide transportation for two of them. The county would provide transportation for one officer.
She agreed that the officers, if not needed during the summer, would be used by the Sheriff’s Department.
“Having those deputies during the summer would be a plus for the Sheriff’s Department,” Commissioner Larry Irons said.
Mitchell said based on the 1999 agreement, the county has two SRO positions, but only one is being used at this time. He said he has spoken with Sheriff Ronnie Willis and Chief Deputy Jr. Witt about the SRO positions, and they are going to post the position to see who is interested.
“Once they compile a list of candidates, they will present those to the school board for them to choose from,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the issue will be the third officer.
“We’ll try to get the second back in place as soon as possible,” Mitchell said. “If we can’t fill a third one from within the department, it will take a budget amendment.”
An increased focus on school safety issues has developed nationwide after the Dec. 14 shooting deaths of 20 first-grade students and six teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Reports indicate the school did not have an officer inside the building.
“This is certainly a tremendous need that is not going away,” Irons said.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.