ISD to submit school resource officer grant application
CENTREVILLE — Members of the St. Joseph County Intermediate School District Board of Education agreed to apply for a school resource officer grant.
ISD superintendent Teresa Belote said the grant is a competitive one worth $25 million across the state of Michigan. It requires grantees to provide a 50 percent cash match, she said, for approximately three years. Application deadline is Nov. 17.
Belote said she’s spoken with St. Joseph County Sheriff Mark Lillywhite and that his department would partner with the ISD. A school resource officer must be contracted through a police agency, she said.
Belote shared some concerns with the board, prior to the vote.
“Certainly, having a police officer on campus all the time has pros and cons when you’re talking about students with trauma,” she said. “There are concerns about how that will impact them. Mark (Lillywhite) is very aware of that. He said we would have to find the right person. He said they could use a soft approach where the officer is wearing slacks and a polo as opposed to a full uniform.”
Belote told the board she would “cautiously recommend that we move forward.”
“It makes me nervous,” she said. “I’ll be the first one to say that. I don’t think it should be in place of proactive measures.”
Belote shared some staff comments on the matter, including from those who thought a school resource officer would be beneficial. Others worried about the impact on students who have had negative interactions with police in the past, the idea that some students are fearful when police arrive or hear of the need for an officer, and that having an officer on campus might “freak students out.”
“That’s where what they’re wearing will matter,” Belote said. “How they’re introduced, it will matter. How they’re trained will matter.”
Board member Patty Keller said choosing the right person also will matter. She said she’s seen instances where school resource officers have worked very well in districts.
“It’s another resource for students,” she said. “I have seen it be very effective.”
The board voted 4-0 to move forward with the grant application, with board member Ben Fries absent.
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In other news this week, the ISD board voted to approve up to three additional assistant teacher apprentices from the teacher academy program.
“We’ve had some great luck with the first two we’ve hired this last year,” Belote said of the apprentices. “With the hope that we would be able to move forward, we have done some preliminary interviews. As long as the quality and caliber of the students we are seeing for these interviews continues, education is in better shape in the future. That’s exciting.”
The board also approved that Belote would send a letter to Michigan legislators regarding a request to revisit the school grading system.
“While we agree with holding schools accountable, feedback in this way is not only counterproductive at an organizational level, it adds to the challenge of hiring and retaining quality staff,” the letter reads. “By removing the public shaming of schools through this process, we can focus on ensuring students are accessing high level assessments and prioritize, then, how to improve overall outcomes.”
The board also:Approved entering into a consortium cost sharing agreement with other ISDs who are part of Talent Together and are working toward certified teacher apprenticeships and alternative teacher certification pathways. Approved a 30-day extension for Early Childhood Services to complete their corrective action plan in regards to the area of noncompliance that was found during their focus area 2 monitoring review. Approved the new positions of “early childhood school social worker” and “school-wide supportive learning coach” and up to two additional assistant teachers. Tabled their special education work session due to a discipline issue earlier Monday.
Contact reporter Michelle Patrick at email@example.com.