THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The Edgecombe County Public Schools are working to secure a federal grant to hire three additional school resource officers (SRO’s), bringing the total number of SRO’s up to five.
“What we are trying to accomplish is to add three more SRO’s to the county,” said ECPS Superintendent John Farrelly, at a Monday evening board of education meeting.
The school system is collaborating with the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office on the grant application, which goes to the Community Oriented Policing Services office of the U.S. Department of Justice. The announcement date for the $435,000 grant is Sept. 30.
“The overall purpose of the grant is to continue to partner with the sheriff’s department in providing safe, nurturing school environments,” Farrelly said.
Board vice chair Evelyn Shaw Wilson asked Farrelly at which schools the additional SRO’s would be placed.
“We would share between our elementary and middle schools, with the priority being our middle schools,” Farrelly replied. The system currently has no SRO’s at the elementary or middle school level.
“It will make a big difference by having that presence there,” said Sheriff James Knight. “It will also let the parents and citizens know that the kids are our most valuable resource, so we need to do whatever we can to keep them safe and create a safe learning environment (for them.)”
The school system is calling the project, “Edgecombe Safe Schools 2013 Project.” A memorandum of understanding between the sheriff’s office and the ECPS regarding the project was an item of information at Monday’s meeting.
The memorandum states that the school system is responsible for providing an area within the school for the SRO to prepare reports and meet with students individually, while the sheriff’s office is responsible for the hiring and training of the additional officers.
The school district currently has two full-time SRO’s – one at SouthWest Edgecombe High School and one at North Edgecombe High School, provided by the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office. The Tarboro Police Department typically provides one officer at Tarboro High School.
The goal of the sheriff’s office is to provide the additional SRO’s to schools with the largest number of students and staff and with the “greatest propensity for violence and bullying caused by gang-related activities and disruptive students,” and those with the “greatest potential for drug related problems,” according to the memorandum. If the grant is awarded, the memorandum of understanding will end three years after the date of the award, but the sheriff’s office will continue to partner with the school district.
“The current relationship between the sheriff’s department and ECPS is outstanding,” Farrelly said. “Sheriff Knight is committed to working collaboratively with the district in doing all that we can to provide safe communities. I commend both the sheriff and (Tarboro Police) Chief Damon Williams in working with and in our schools. I could not ask for better collaboration and commitment!”
Farrelly said the school district in the past few months has worked with local law enforcement officials to review and revise its crisis management plans.
The sheriff’s office will enhance its “involvement in and commitment to community policing” by having a stronger presence in the schools, according to the memorandum of understanding. In the case of an incident needed the presence of law enforcement, the sheriff’s office would be the first responder to seven out of 14 of the county’s public schools, which are located outside of municipal limits.