School board chair speaks to county about SRO needs
by Meghann Evans
Stokes County Board of Education Chairman Mike Rogers went before the Stokes County Board of Commissioners at a meeting Wednesday night to request funding for additional student resource officers in schools.
The school board voted last Thursday to request up to $350,000 from the county for additional SROs to be placed in schools through the end of May as school officials work on a comprehensive plan to improve safety measures. This action was taken in light of the recent school shooting in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six adults.
Rogers relayed this request during the public comment portion of the meeting since the school board missed the prior Wednesday deadline for the item to be included on the regular agenda, though he later noted with frustration that other items were added on Wednesday night. The county manager did ask at the start of Wednesday’s meeting for a few items to be added to the agenda, which was accepted by the board. This is typically done with items that come up after the agenda is set but need immediate action.
No action was taken by the board Wednesday night after Rogers relayed the school board request. When asked later in the meeting about the school request, county board Chairman Ernest Lankford said, “No comment.”
Rogers said school officials will continue to work with the sheriff on putting together a comprehensive plan and gathering more details about financing obligations, which they will request to be added to an upcoming county agenda.
During his remarks on Wednesday, Rogers explained to the commissioners that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary brought into focus the issue of safety in schools. He said the request is for up to $350,000 so there will be an increased presence by sheriff’s office personnel in the schools through the end of the school year. During this time, the school system will work on evaluating and upgrading other plans or items related to safety. He noted that a 10-minute response time at Sandy Hook saved lives. The sheriff’s office is stretched thin, Rogers said, so the money would fund the additional SROs.
The board members did not comment then on the request. They generally listen to public comments without responding.
Later in the meeting, Commissioner Jimmy Walker said during his regular comment period, “This is a challenging issue. This is a sad reminder of how things are.”
Walker said some changes probably need to be made, but that it should be handled one step at a time. The problem is a budgetary issue, he said. But then he added, “And yet, I don’t think we can put a price on safety.”
“I hope we can work together and take kind of a team approach,” said Walker, noting that he will be interested to see updated information the sheriff presents to the school board at its next meeting.
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