Talawanda hires more police officers, adds social workers in elementaries

Talawanda Schools will hire school resource officers for each building and social workers in each elementary. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Talawanda Schools will hire school resource officers for each building and social workers in each elementary. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The Talawanda Board of Education has approved two personnel proposals to deal with school safety both from a prevention standpoint as well as reaction.

Hiring school resource officers for each district building and social workers in each elementary were approved at the Talawanda Board of Education work session May 17.

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Superintendent Kelly Spivey started her presentation by noting the district has done a good job in the past few years with saving money through staff attrition, not replacing everyone who retired or left the district.

She requested approval to hire three school resource officers, which would see one assigned to each building in the district with the two positions already in place. She also suggested hiring three social workers to place one in each elementary building with the one position already in place dealing with middle school and high school families.

“Social workers are seeing students with breakdowns … Many families are not getting care,” Spivey said. “It’s a desperate, desperate need. The secondary staff is saying the need is at the elementary level.”

In her summary of the personnel issues on the agenda, Spivey said the estimated cost for the school resource officers will be $18,000 to $28,000 per officer per year, with the social worker positions estimated at $39,900 to $57,000 base salary per person per year.

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Bogan Principal Jeff Winslow told the board school staffs are dealing every day with families and many are not traditional families. Issues in students’ lives affect their performance in school.

“It spills over to their classes. It spills over to the playground,” he said. “There are a number of families willing to get help but they are just on the cusp. They can’t get Medicaid and coverage is not provided. We need to provide direct service to families.”

Part of that effort of dealing with issues in advance as well as responding to immediate issues arose in the discussion of hiring additional School Resource Officers.

Spivey noted that each building would like access to a school resource officer and spreading the work of two officers to five buildings conflicts with the needs of each building. The times before and after the school day, lunch time and playground times are the greatest need, making it difficult to spread time around all the schools at those periods.

The district is currently served by retired Oxford Police Sgt. Jim Squance, since hired by the Butler County Sheriff’s Office to serve as School Resource Officer at Talawanda High School, and Oxford Police officer Matt Wagers, who is primarily assigned to the middle school.

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Oxford Police Chief John Jones previously encouraged the board to hire school resource officers for every building. He told the board at the work session the city has a different philosophy than the sheriff’s office.

“We use full-time active duty officers. The sheriff uses retired officers,” he said.

Squance was also present and he said that has changed somewhat.

“That model is different now,” Squance said, noting the case of Edgewood’s need for a school resource officer. “There are not enough retired (to cover the requests). They are taking road deputies off the road.”

Jones acknowledged that, but renewed his suggestion of a school resource officer in every building.

“We put a lot more into it,” the chief said. “We encourage you to put one in every school whether it’s Oxford or Butler County.”

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In their discussion later in the meeting, board members agreed it is important to get the right person for the job, for that reason.

“I worry about every school (in the area) wanting a school resource officer. Where are they all coming from? We want to be sure we get the right people, not just a body,” said board member Patrick Meade. “We need to be sure the staff knows how to use a school resource officer.”

Board member Michael Crowder said he supported both the additional school resource officers and social workers, but said he wants to see regular reports of their activities so the work can be verified.

Board member Mary Jane Roberts and President Mark Butterfield also supported the additional school resource officers and social workers, and a motion approving the positions passed on 4-0 vote with board member Chris Otto unable to attend the meeting.

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