Members of the New Hanover County Board of Education
unanimously approved a letter requesting funding from the New Hanover County
Board of Commissioners for 24 additional Senior Resource Officers for local
elementary schools in light of the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy
in Newtown, Conn.
A handful of local officials, who mentioned how close the
tragedy is to their own hearts with family members in the schools, gave presentations
showing safety standards currently implemented in schools throughout the county
and expressing hopes for future efforts during a school board work session on
Wednesday, Dec. 19.
Dr. Rick Holliday, assistant superintendent for support
services, said there are currently 20 SRO’s in the New Hanover County Sheriff’s
Department and three supervisors. The cost to fund the SRO’s by the county
commission is $470,380.
The SRO’s are currently located in all of the middle and
high schools in the county, but only two deputies patrol the elementary
“It wasn’t until the 1990’s that the increased presence of
law enforcement on campuses became the norm,” Holliday said.
For each additional group of 10 officers, one sergeant and
one corporal are needed as supervisors.
Four Wilmington Police Department officers are also
available to schools in city limits at a cost of $69,914.
The added deputies would allow increased long-term safety
and security for the elementary schools in the county, which Sheriff Ed McMahon
said is the best case scenario. He also said he would like to see the
implementation of the deputies in the schools as quickly as possible, hopefully
by January 2013.
“We have moved officers from current assignments into the
schools,” McMahon said.
Bill Hance, assistant superintendent for planning and
operations, placed the emphasis on increased training for school administrators
“Training, training, training,” he said. “I can’t say it
enough. Training is essential.”
The highest concerns are at schools where there is outside
entry into classrooms, where students travel from pod to pod outside between
classes and where there are unique building configurations.
During emergency situations, Hance said teachers and staff
would be able to fall back on training when there is both shock and decisions
to be made.
The training, which would likely be held during the
summertime, would take about two days for teachers and a week for principals.
The discussion ended with the motion on the letter about the
additional 24 deputies.
Board member Edward Higgins asked about the possibility of
the county commissioners not approving funding for the officers.
“It’s clearly going to cost a lot of money,” fellow member
Dr. Derrick Hickey said. “… Parents need to know that their children are safe.”
He said in the budgeting process, the board could skimp on
technology or athletic activities, but cannot put a price tag on the safety of
In a statement released Thursday, Dec. 20, Chairman Woody
White acknowledged the letter from the board.
“I and the other County Commissioners are very much engaged
in the ongoing dialogue surrounding this responsibility, and look forward to
working with the school board, the City and beach towns to appropriately
address this matter,” White stated in the release.