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Brooke County Board of Education to seek experienced officers

RESOURCE OFFICERS DISCUSSED — The Brooke County Board of Education on Monday made plans to seek experienced law enforcement officers to serve in local schools. (Photo by Warren Scott)

WELLSBURG — Following failed negotiations with Brooke County Commissioners over pay for school resource officers, local school officials have agreed to create their own positions and fill them with experienced police officers.

Plans call for the officers to receive wages and benefits of about $60,000 from the school district or about $45,000 if they already have benefits through retirement or other circumstances.

The amount is less than the $90,000 in wages and benefits received by sheriff’s deputies who had served previously as resource officers.

But Superintendent Jeffrey Crook said the officers would be off on holidays and other days when school is closed and could seek other employment during the summer.

Deidra Parr, the school district’s treasurer, said the officers’ duties would include directing traffic before and after school and providing security at football games, tasks for which the board currently pays the county sheriff’s department.

The board also made plans to hire a lead resource officer who would oversee the others, develop plans for response to active shooter incidents and other crises and likely be assigned to the high school.

Crook said the school district would pay for training for the officers, who will be certified to carry a firearm in the schools.

The move was supported by board members Ted Pauls, Dr. Robert Marks, Antoinette Perkins and Chris Byers.

Board member Stacy Hooper abstained from voting after saying she wasn’t satisfied with the course of negotiations the board took with the commissioners.

The board has employed security guards at each of the county’s schools since talks broke down between the two groups.

The school board had asked for future pay for five sheriff’s deputies to be pro-rated according to time spent in the schools after they were closed for three months this year because of the pandemic.

Crook and others said state officials advised them not to pay for services from independent contractors they hadn’t received while schools are closed.

The commissioners said the five were hired solely to serve in the schools following an agreement the school district would pay for them and their positions weren’t in the county’s budget.

While the school district’s five-year operational levy allots funds for resource officers, it doesn’t specify the number. But the commissioners and others have said the promise of an officer in each school was used to encourage support for it.

Crook noted a Wellsburg police officer continues to serve Brooke Middle School in keeping with a separate agreement with that city.

In other business, Stephanie Blundon, the district’s director of student services, advised plans are still in place for all students to attend schools on four days each week beginning Nov. 2.

Currently about half of each school’s enrollment attends on two days and the other half on two other days, with all engaging in virtual learning on the remaining three days.

She said as full-time teachers are engaged in more in-person instruction, more substitute teachers will be needed to serve as facilitators for the virtual instruction. Those teachers are paid on an hourly basis, she noted.

Pauls, the board’s president, asked why Brooke County was waiting until November when Hancock County schools already have gone to four days of in-person instruction.

Blundon said the week will start the next nine week grading period and seemed a more natural time. She noted parents of students participating in a separate week-long online educational program may switch to the in-person instruction then by contacting their schools.

It was noted that about 660 students are participating in the online program, many of them from the elementary and intermediate schools at the county’s north end.

Blundon said 30 percent to 40 percent of the county’s special education students also are working solely from home, adding that in some cases it’s because they have medically fragile conditions.

The board also approved goals for Crook in the 2020-21 school year. Proposed by Crook and board members, they included raising students’ scores on state tests, ensuring precautions are in place to address concerns about COVID-19 and bringing the school district out of its state financial watch.

A $3.2 million per year shortfall in the operating levy led to the board cutting more than 40 staff members and $5,000 in stipends for all school employees that were to come from the levy.

Crook said the stipends will be added to future meeting agendas in the event the board is prepared to act on them.

In related business, the board agreed to sell, through an online auction, about $100,000 in equipment purchased for the high school’s short-lived cosmetology program.

Crook and others said high costs and comparatively low enrollment for the program led to it being cut.

On Monday he said furniture and other materials stored at the former Colliers Primary School are being inventoried for online bidding also, with details to be announced.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com)

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