The Alvord, Chico, Paradise and Slidell school districts will each have a school resource officer assigned to their campuses this fall.
The increased security is a result of a cooperative agreement between the Wise County Sheriff’s Office and the school districts, which was approved by county commissioners Monday. Sheriff David Walker, Capt. Kevin Benton and Sgt. Paige Dobyns, who oversees the school resource officer program, have been working with school superintendents for several months to finalize the agreement.
“With the events across the country, and some right here in the county, we’ve been working hard to figure out a way to be more proactive and less reactive,” said Walker. “It’s unfortunate that you have to have law enforcement in the schools, but this will allow us to assign an officer to every school.”
The Sheriff’s Office currently has three SROs – Dobyns, Deputy Justin Hunter and Deputy Eliyah Payne. Hunter is assigned to Paradise ISD, Dobyns is at Chico ISD and Payne is primarily at Alvord ISD. She also regularly visits the Slidell school district. Under the new agreement, two more SROs will be hired, and the cost will be split between the county and the school districts. Each district will have an officer assigned to it, and Dobyns will continue to oversee the program, floating between campuses and filling in as needed.
Officers will monitor activities on campus, be available to staff and will present safety programs for the younger students.
“I think this is a tremendous opportunity to enhance safety and security in the schools,” said Alvord Superintendent Bill Branum. “It’s unfortunate that it is what it is, but it’s such an unpredictable environment. … Obviously, we’re totally supportive of it.”
The new SROs will start in July and be trained before school starts. The cost to the county to finish out this fiscal year will be $40,000.
“I would like to thank Sheriff David Walker because after the Sandy Hook shooting, he got our ideas on how we thought we could address this,” said Chico Superintendent Mike Jones. “Our board was fully in favor when we presented this to them, and I think it’s a much better idea than arming every teacher. I appreciate all your consideration for trying to protect our students and staff.”
The Decatur, Bridgeport and Boyd school districts have SROs through their respective police departments. Although the Boyd officer works only 20 hours per week, there is always a police presence on campus because the department is housed in the district’s old administration building.