County to supply school officers

COVINGTON - The Newton County Board of Education agreed Tuesday to enter an intergovernmental agreement with the Newton County Board of Commissioners to supply school resource officers to the schools next school year.

Instead of working directly for the school system, as officers have previously done, the SROs now are expected to be employed by the county.

The county has yet to approve the agreement in a public meeting.

Whatley said the Newton County Sheriff's Office will advertise, hire and train the officers in enough time for them to begin the 2008-09 school year. He said some of the officers who worked at the schools this year could be rehired as they see fit.

The school system will reimburse the county $839,056 for the 17 officers who will work in the schools for 180 days; the county is ordered to maintain a general liability insurance in the amount of at least $1 million, according to the agreement.

The agreement between the school system and the county expires June 30, 2011. Either party may terminate the agreement by giving the other party written notice.

"They worked a shift for the Newton County Sheriff's Office and then worked a period of time with us," said Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley about the previous work environment.

He said the school system wanted the officers to assist in the schools but were concerned about the officers working their second shift at the schools.

"We realized we need to make some changes in the program," he said.

After the school system was notified that several deputies would not work shifts as SROs next school year, the system began discussions with the NCSO and the county to determine a plan of action.

Board member Rickie Corley showed concern for the SROs still working an extra shift elsewhere.

"They work for us primarily," Whatley explained.

Even so, Corley said, the school system will have no say as to whether or not the officers work an extra shift before or after their shift at a school.

The school system is planning to use 17 deputies as SROs for the 2008-09 school year, including one at each middle school and between two and three at each high school and Sharp Learning Center, as well as a roaming officer.

Whatley said the school system can later look into expanding the program if there is a need.

"It's part of our growing pains," said board member Cathy Dobbs. "We just gotta do it."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.