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School board looks into its pocket to pay for two new officers

SROs: Board votes unanimously to reinstate School Resource Officers

logoTwo additional School Resources Officers are being placed back into Colleton County schools, but only through the remainder of this school year.

The Colleton County School Board voted unanimously at its Tuesday night meeting to reinstate two officers: the district will pay approximately $77,000 for these officers’ salaries for the remainder of the school year, through June. The two officers will be added to the district’s existing three SROs. Currently, there is one officer who floats around the elementary school campuses, and two at Colleton County High School. The two new additional SROs will go to Colleton Middle School, said district Superintendent Leila Williams. Traditionally, the district has had five SROs on duty throughout the school year. These current SROs on duty are paid for by the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office and the county.

According to Williams, there has been no public outcry and no increase in school incidents to mandate the need for the two additional SROs. The cut- back in school officers was done to help the district meet its state-mandated budget for the current fiscal year. “We had to cut back on teachers and janitors at each school to meet this year’s mandated budget crunch,” said Williams.

According to district Human Resources Director Dr. Franklin Foster, the district did not “fire” anyone, but instead lost employees to attrition. “We didn’t have to tell somebody they weren’t going to be employed because of the budget,” he said. “We just did reshuffling, and there were several positions eliminated to get the budget balanced.”

Supt. Williams added that even though the board voted to approve the two additional officers, the district’s ability to pay for these officers is still somewhat unseen. “These two additional SROs are contingent upon us having the funds in our General Fund account,” added Williams. “If it’s going to put our balance below the 5-percent (safety) level, the board would have to reconsider its vote.”

Before its vote on the matter, the district heard from two Colleton County residents who implored the school board to reinstate the two lacking SROs. “Unless you have lost a child, you don’t know what it is. We have too many copycats going on,” Rev. Jack Lewis, Jr. told the school board. Lewis lost a child two years ago, he said. “We have people who are sick now, and they’re targeting our children,” he added. “Having SROs back in the school systems will be a deterrent.”

Lynette Fryar also asked the board to reinstate the two SRO positions. “I am appalled you were given a budget that doesn’t include filling these two positions,” Fryar told the board. “The community is concerned.” Fryar then pleaded with the board, saying parents want to be put at ease about their child’s safety on school grounds.

The board took the issue into executive session, and discussed it behind closed doors. Back in open session, the board cast its vote.

According to Williams, the SROs are “preventative” for violence on school grounds. “The Colleton County Sheriff’s Office wants the officers in schools,” she added. “These officers are meant to curb any incidents before they should occur.”

Heather Walters (1389 Posts)