Southern Regional District Moves Forward on Plan to Hire Class III Officers to Patrol Schools

Mar 21, 2018
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Even before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., occurred on Feb. 14, Southern Regional School District Superintendent Craig Henry had been in discussion with Stafford Township Police Chief Thomas Dellane regarding the use of Class III officers within the Southern district.

“That’s a discussion which started between Chief Dellane and I shortly after the state passed legislation to devise the Class III category,” Henry said following the district’s recent board of education meeting, during which the board provided its approval to move ahead with the cooperative.

“The Class III category is defined as an officer who has been recently retired, between three and five years, who applies for the appropriate continue-to-carry permit, and then is eligible to be hired as a Class III officer. They’re subject to all the training requirements as another police officer, but the only difference is they can’t work as much, there’s a limit to how much they can make, and they don’t have benefits. But they can be in service as a uniformed officer to a school district.”

The cooperative is such that the officer is technically an employee of the township, the district funnels funds to it through an inter-local agreement to cover the cost of utilizing the officers, in a similar manner to how the town funnels collected property-tax revenue and doles it to the school district. Henry said Southern will be hiring four officers at $27 per hour and work up to 30 hours per week for the 10 months of the year school is in operation.

While the district will begin moving on hiring officers, Henry said they’re most likely going to be in place for the next school year, as opposed to starting them during the remaining three months of this year.

“We have two full-time security guards retiring, so the money that would have come from their salaries and benefits will be used to help fund this new setup,” Henry said. “We’re essentially putting in place four police officers for the same cost of the two security guards who are retiring. The funds will come directly from our personnel budget.”

The superintendent said that while the entire operating plan is not yet solidified, it’s highly likely that three of the officers will patrol the halls inside the high school’s two buildings and the other inside the middle school, with a rotation schedule so that, during the course of any given day, each officer will have time in each of the buildings.

Also during the meeting, the board approved the hiring and addition of four part-time security guards, which Henry said will occur as soon as possible. The request to add more security guards was in coordination with recently altered security procedures – specifically the need to station security guards at the main entrances to the schools’ three buildings, which takes them away from performing routine checks throughout the buildings during the day, Henry said.

“Now, instead of having our most valuable security assets sitting at doors, bored out of their minds, we can develop a rotation schedule so that they’re all working as a team to provide the best measure of security possible for our students and staff,” Henry said. “If they’re just sitting at doors all day, that prevents them from keeping their eyes and ears, and expertise, in other locations of the buildings when they might be needed.”

— David Biggy

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