Columbiana BOE OKs deal for school cop

COLUMBIANA — The Columbiana school district is on track to have a school resource officer (SRO) for the next three years.

The board of education on Tuesday approved a memorandum of understanding with the Columbiana Police Department for a resource officer for 2019 through 2021. The hire will also need approval from city council, which is expected to see legislation on the next council meeting agenda July 17.

The board began considering an SRO and other safety measures earlier this year in response to an increase in school violence across the nation.

The board reached the decision on the SRO following months of discussions which included input from district parents, the community, Superintendent Don Mook and police Chief Tim Gladis.

“Our goal is to provide the highest level of safety for our students and school staff,” Gladis said when contacted after the meeting.

Under the memorandum of understanding, the police department will provide a full-time officer to the district for 180 days. The officer will provide protection at all three school buildings.

The remaining days of the year when school is not in session the officer will serve the police department by patrolling the streets.

“It’s a great opportunity for our community since the SRO will be used on the streets during the busy summer months. Everybody benefits,” Gladis said.

School Treasurer Kathy Davies said the SRO will cost the district anywhere from $30,000 to $47,000 a year depending on whether the officer provided is on a single or family medical insurance plan.

Mook has said that Gladis’ plan is to provide the district with a senior officer on the force and then charge the district what it would cost to bring in a new hire for the department.

“We believe it is a great thing moving forward. I believe it is a great thing moving forward,” board member Scott Caron said.

He added that the district is also implementing additional safety measures, such as SchoolSAFEid and Threat Extinguishers.

SchoolSAFEid is a safety and security software that would create and print student visitor ID cards and digital Ids for anyone coming into the buildings after the completion of a quick background check.

“Before anyone can enter our building, moving forward, they will have to have their criminal background checked,” Caron said.

He went on to say that the background check spans state and federal databases, including sex offender databases.

“We are not allowing anybody in here that can possibly cause harm to our students,” he said.

Threat Extinguisher is a non-lethal self-defense system geared toward improving communication during emergency situations.

The system comes with “extinguishers” which are tactical pepper spray canisters that, when removed from their base, immediately send out an emergency alert to authorities and school staff, students, and even parents.

The alert also gives the location of the activated Threat Extinguisher so that responders know where the threat or emergency is, and others know where to stay away.

“Those parents that are out there that are worrying about entrusting us with their children, they don’t have to worry, because we have gone over and beyond to make sure that that threat can be identified, and those children, when they are entrusted with us, those parents can feel safe — about the education that they get, which is one of the best — and that they are safe,” Caron said.

Board President Kelly Williamson said she appreciated the effort the district, the parents, and the community put into researching safety improvements.

“We have some really good things in place that we feel really good about,” she said.