Demoplis schools to add second school resource officer

Demopolis City Schools will soon have a second school resource officer. The DCS Board of Education voted Monday evening to approve a proposal from Demopolis Police Department Chief Tommie Reese that will install a second SRO on DCS campuses.

“I talked to you a while back that we had 73 incidents around the nation,” Reese told the board when offering his proposal. “I really don’t want to see anything happen in Demopolis. I see the need for an additional person to be in our school system. I’m asking you to consider that.”

“Student safety is the No. 1 issue facing schools. We’ve sat in here tonight and we’ve talked about financing and academics. The No. 1 issue is student safety,” Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Al Griffin, who spoke up in support of the proposal, said.

Under Reese’s proposal, the Demopolis Police Department will hire a retired officer whose salary will be covered by the Demopolis City Schools system. The DPD will cover the operational costs of the officer including liability insurance, a patrol car and the like.

“A retired officer under the state retirement system, the max he can make is $23,000,” Reese said of the cost-effective strategy. “You get the experience already. He is already certified. It is basically just go through the schools, show him what to do at the schools and let him go from there. Having a veteran officer, that will be plus.”

“Right now the individual we have is responsible for four campuses. That will divide up two campuses per SRO,” Griffin said.

The new officer will be assigned to U.S. Jones Elementary School and Westside Elementary School while current SRO Marcus Williams continues to serve at Demopolis High School and Demopolis Middle School.

“The biggest thing right now is to find a person to put in that position,” Reese said. “We’re going to try to go ahead and post it out and hope to get that person hired some time in January.”

In other business, the board approved a memorandum of understanding regarding the GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) initiative.

The initiative, which will be overseen by the University of Alabama Birmingham, will include 53 campuses in 18 school systems. Among those campuses utilizing the $49 million available in the grant will be Demopolis Middle School.

“It’s going to provide a site coordinator and a team leader for each campus,” Griffin explained to the board.

The site coordinator, who will be an employee of UAB, will be tasked with tracking current sixth and seventh grade students all the way through high school and into their first year of college.

“It’s going to be a great resource for these young people,” Griffin said.

The initiative is aimed at assisting students in the areas of SAT, ACT prep, career guidance, family financial planning and guidance, remediation and tutoring.

As part of the program, DMS will also utilize a team leader.

“That team leader, for two years, will be a person at the middle school. For one year, it will be a person at the high school and a person at the middle school. From then on, it will be a person at the high school,” Griffin explained.

Members of the board expressed some concern over the eventual site coordinator’s status as a UAB employee, a prospect that they feared could leave DCS with little influence in the hiring process.

“The site coordinator has to apply through UAB. Retired teachers will probably be a good applicant pool,” Griffin told the board. “We will have input on it, but they will be employed through UAB.”

How successful the program will be is anyone’s guess. Griffin told the board he expects the initiative could be very beneficial to Demopolis while other school systems may no fare as well.

“There’s 18 different school systems. I think you’re going to see some school systems that are very successful with this grant. There is going to be some that are not so successful,” Griffin said.

The BOE also approved a memorandum of agreement between Demopolis City Schools and the Alabama State Department of Education. DCS is set to receive a $40,000 grant from the state that will be utilized to assist with accountability preparation.

“It’s money we applied for through the state. We do not have to pay it back. It’s money that will be utilized to implement Plan 2020 and better implement our accountability measures,” Griffin said.

According to Griffin, those funds will be directed to STI Achievement Services, a company that will look to help DCS with ACT prep, AP prep, SAT prep, ACT Aspire, bring your own device initiative at U.S. Jones and educational app training at Westside.

Additionally, the Demopolis BOE okayed a proposal that will create a pair of open enrollment periods for substitute teachers. Those periods will take place in January and July.

The design of the plan is to cut down on the hassle associated with soon-to-be-enacted requirements of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

“To eliminate some of this tracking nightmare, I’m asking that maybe we select January and July as the two times,” DCS HR manager Jennifer Roemen said. “Anybody who comes in after that up until July, we would take their information and tell them they would not be an eligible sub until July.”

The board also approved a formal description of duties and responsibilities attached to supplement funds and signed off on a request by Ross Martial Arts to utilize the DHS gymnasium for its annual Complete Grappling Challenge.
In personnel moves, the board accepted the retirement of Albert Williams Sr. from the position of Demopolis High School custodian and subsequently opened the position with a tentative start date of March 1, 2015.

The board also approved the recommendation to hire Beth Wideman as a teacher at Westside Elementary School.

The board set its next meeting for Jan. 26, 2015 at 5:15 p.m.