The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 21, 2013

Buckeye BOE considers hiring resource officer

By CARL E. FEATHER - cfeather@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — The concept of a school resource officer could be tested at Buckeye Local Schools this spring.

Superintendent Joseph Spiccia presented the idea to the board of education during its meeting Tuesday evening. Spiccia said having a uniformed, armed officer in the school buildings would increase safety and security while helping students build a trusting relationship with law enforcement.

Spiccia said Ashtabula Area City Schools and Pymatuning Valley Local Schools are the only districts in the county with resource officers. About 150 northeast Ohio schools have a resource officer.

“It’s a relatively common practice in school districts,” Spiccia told the board.

The officer would work for the school district as a contract employee. The district would not provide benefits.

An officer who worked seven hours a day during the school year at $22 an hour would cost the district about $27,400. Spiccia told the board to budget about $30,000 because the officer would also work football games and other special details. The school’s athletic boosters have traditionally footed the bill for those special assignments.

As to how the district would pay for the officer, Spiccia said it probably would have to come out of the general fund. However, the district could apply for grants and other funding opportunities. He said the COPS grant, which requires a local match, cannot be used for personnel.

Spiccia said that the officer would be associated with the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department and that Sheriff William Johnson provided him with a list of candidates. The department would pick up the cost of liability insurance, communications equipment and a cruiser, Spiccia told the board.

The cruiser, however, could be in jeopardy. County commissioners recently questioned the expense of the county providing cruisers and fuel for resource officers, which are not employed the department. Spiccia said having a cruiser parked at a school would act as a deterrent in itself.

The superintendent suggested the board take a vote on the question at the March meeting and perhaps test the concept during the spring months of the school year.

Board member Mary Wisnyai said there have been several fights at the high school this school year, and she feels that having a resource officer could help curtail that kind of activity. The officer would be available to all four buildings in the district. Spiccia said having an officer on site at one of the buildings would help decrease response time if there is a problem in a different Buckeye school.