FLORENCE — Lauderdale County Schools Superintendent Jennifer Gray is taking her efforts to add school resource officers to the district a step further.
She met with county commissioners in January to begin a discussion about the issue, and now she has followed up with an official request for three more school resource officers.
Currently the system has one school resource officer who is shared among the 11 county schools. The officer provides security among other duties in schools.
"We're so large, from Waterloo to Rogersville, just one can't really cover it," Gray said. "We had the first meeting with the commission to express our concerns and to get their thoughts about this issue." Gray's proposal includes the school system and commission splitting the cost of the three school resource officers.
In 1999, the school system and commission agreed that schools would pay for one officer and the county would pay for another. Three years ago, one of the officers was taken out of the schools and never replaced.
Gray said when two school resource officers were available, one covered the schools in the east end of the county and the other handled west end schools. Adding a third officer, she said, would allow someone to be assigned to schools in the middle of the county.
At the January meeting, sheriff's Chief Deputy Jr. Witt said a lack of money resulted in the vacant position not being filled.
"We have to take a serious look at this and see if we can find the funding before committing to it," Commissioner Larry Irons said. "Everyone wants to do more, but we can only do so much." Commissioner Roger Garner said he understands the need to protect students.
"I understand the state is considering doing something to help with funding school resource officers," he said. "I'd like to see what, if anything, the state is going to do."
Commissioner Fay Parker, the school system's transportation superintendent, said he would like to see an officer at every county school.
"That would be a big order, but adding one or even two more would be a step in the right direction," Parker said. "In my opinion, this is something we can't afford not to look at closely."
Commissioner D.C. Thornton said he agrees there is a need for additional officers, "but we need to take a look at the overall situation before we start committing to something."
Gray said three school resource officers will not meet all the needs for the system.
"It's a start, though, and it would provide a little more coverage than we have now," she said.
The commission is expected to discuss Gray's request at an upcoming work session.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.