Brunswick board moves to keep school deputies in place
Jan 09, 2013 (Star-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Deputies will remain on duty in Brunswick County elementary schools for the rest of the school year, after the county's school board agreed Tuesday to take $245,838 from the district's fund balance.
At a meeting attended by members of the county commissioners, the school board and the sheriff's office on Monday, Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram recommended the county come up with a plan to keep the officers in the schools.
"To protect our children, there is no stronger force available than an officer trained by the sheriff's department, equipped by the sheriff's department and held accountable and provided ongoing training by the sheriff's department," Superintendent Edward Pruden said. "That provides maximum safety for our staff and our students."
The board also agreed to allow Pruden and his staff to look into how to fund the deputies for the 2013-14 school year, likely by allowing attrition to take place when staff members retire or leave their positions.
"I think the community would say to you with a resounding voice if the choice is having nine fewer teachers in Brunswick County schools out of 800 or keeping the SROs in the elementary schools, it's well worth it," Pruden said.
Both votes were unanimous with the exception of Charles Miller, the school board's chairman and the sheriff's department's chief deputy, who recused himself because of his conflict of interest.
Miller still made his opinion clear, though.
"If we go out and hire nine officers, we can't just invest in nine officers for six months. That's a huge cost for the county," he said.
Off-duty deputies have been serving in the county's nine elementary schools since Dec. 17, the first day of school after 20 children and six staff members were murdered in Newtown, Conn.
Parent and student reaction to the deputies has been overwhelmingly positive, with very few reactions opposing their being in the elementary school during an unofficial survey taken by the sheriff's office.
Administrators said the deputies' presence was extremely reassuring in the days immediately following the massacre.
"It kept me from running around campus all day long checking doors and checking other things," said Kathleen Owens, principal of Bolivia Elementary School, of the deputy's presence.
At Town Creek Elementary School, the deputy has worked with staff to improve security for after-school programs.
"He's just fallen in with the staff like he's been there the three years we've been open and that's important," said Walker Constantinesco, the school's principal.
In addition to providing protection, the deputies would also be working in the classrooms, providing DARE training to older students and teaching younger students stranger danger and how to handle stress, among other safety lessons.
"They won't just be an officer in the school, but they'll be a good role model. They'll be a friend to the students," said First Sergeant Todd Coring, an officer who spent seven of his 15 years in the sheriff's department working the DARE program.
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