Fiscal court gives stamp of approval to School Resource Officer agreement

Posted April 24, 2024 at 12:02 pm

Clinton County Fiscal Court has given the green light for the agreement between the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office and Clinton County Board of Education to supply School Resource Officers (SROs) in each school beginning with the 2024-25 school year.
The fiscal court, during its regular meeting last Thursday, voted to approve the agreement between the two aforementioned entities, contingent upon the school district funding the officers that will be in the schools.
Judge/Executive Ricky Craig and magistrates conducted a lengthy discussion on the agreement with Clinton County Schools Superintendent Wayne Ackerman, Sheriff Ricky Marcum and school board chairperson Leslie Stockton, who was on hand to field questions and explain the agreement.
The week prior, the school board had voted unanimously to approve the agreement, which had been worked out between the sheriff and superintendent.
Sheriff Marcum informed the court that 82 percent of school districts in the state were under the direction of local sheriff’s offices. He also added his staff and the superintendent and school district had been in discussion about the agreement for the past couple of months.
A copy of the working contract was presented to all court members for review prior to the meeting.
Superintendent Ackerman and Stockton came to last week’s meeting to answer any questions and address any concerns the county governing body had concerning the agreement.
Ackerman first stated it was great to be able to meet the people and court members, with this being the first meeting he had been able to attend, saying he appreciated having the opportunity to be there.
At the beginning of the discussion, Judge Craig noted the court had questions pertaining to who would be paying for the SROs health insurance, retirement and worker’s compensation, or basically, their benefits.
The superintendent and sheriff’s office tax administrator Randy Jones both explained that $11,000 had been budgeted by the school district per officer each quarter, or $44,000 per quarter.
Ackerman, in noting the district would be fully funding the officers’ benefits, presented the court members with a benefit breakdown.
Sixth District Magistrate Mickey Riddle then asked about working into the agreement that calls for SROs to work 186 plus days, and asked about how they would be paid during times they work in the summer when needed for school activities.
Ackerman noted the officers’ pay would be “sanctioned off” in monthly installments, such as other school district employees who are paid once per month.
In other words, SROs will be paid monthly, with the pay rate based on the 186 days worked, plus any extra time during summer months.
The superintendent said this allows the 186 days of pay to be paid out over 12 months.
Jones added the officers would be paid over 12 months of the year, with the $44,000 mentioned earlier going to pay for benefits.
Sheriff Marcum said most in-service for the School Resource Officers will be done this summer. He also added, “We are not wanting this partnership to help with money. We are looking to increase safety and make things better.”
County Treasurer Cindy Thrasher then questioned the superintendent about who would supply life insurance for the officers.
Ackerman said he would check with the school finance director on that and get back with her, but again gave assurances that benefits would also be paid by the school district.
Jones suggested the county provide life insurance rate costs to the school district so they could figure in that cost.
Fifth District Magistrate Jerry Lowhorn also had a question about vehicles provided for the officers, asking if the county would have to supply any, with the superintendent saying they had four suitable vehicles to use.
Stockton told the court that, under state mandate, an SRO is required at each school.
“We have worked tirelessly to procure (SROs),” Stockton said, “Kids still need protection.” She went on to say people appreciated the entities coming together in support of this. “We want the county to feel confident about this agreement,” she added.
Judge Craig then asked about summer events and if there would be an SRO presence during those times.
The superintendent assured the court there would be an SRO presence during summer school events, and “they could go off campus” if needed, something that current school police are not allowed to do.
“If something happens at a school now, we have to call the sheriff’s office before any action can be taken,” Ackerman noted.
However, since the School Resource Officer will be a trained sheriff’s office employee, they would be allowed to go off campus if an emergency situation arose involving a student or staff.
The sheriff said they needed to “re-establish things,” and would like to see active shooter training drills return.
Ackerman also noted about the contract that, as a safeguard, after 90 days,  if either party feels the new School Resource Officer pact isn’t working, either or both could stop it.
First District Magistrate Tony Delk said “safety is a top priority,” and thanked the sheriff’s office and school board for reaching the agreement.
Stockton said this was the best option the school district has had over the years and feels parents, teachers and staff will feel safer.
Judge Craig added, “A child is more precious than any amount of money.”
Magistrate Riddle, who said at first, prior to the questions being answered, was apprehensive about the plan, said he would be glad to make the motion to approve the agreement, contingent upon all the costs for the SROs being paid by the school district.
Riddle then made the motion to approve the SRO agreement reached between the school district and sheriff’s office, contingent on all expenses–including benefits–being paid by the school district.
The motion passed with Magistrates Lowhorn, Delk, Gary Ferguson and Terry Buster also voting yes along with Riddle.
Second District Magistrate Jason Pitman abstained on the vote, noting he was in favor of the agreement, but abstained due to being a school district employee.
The fiscal court also dealt with several other items of business, including budgets, during the session last week. A separate article on that meeting can be found on page 1.