Highland School Board September Meeting

During their September monthly meeting, the Highland County School Board addressed the matter of having a School Resource Officer on campus. An SRO had been present during the latter portion on the 2022-23 school year, but the position, which is employed through the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, is currently not slated to continue.

Sheriff Ronald Wimer, who was present at the meeting, supplied some history and context regarding the position. A year ago, he was notified that the state of Virginia was going to provide 100% funding, including benefits, for an SRO for any localities who did not have one. This led to an agreement between the Board of Supervisors, the School Board, the Sheriff’s office, and Beth McGuire, who was already working part-time for the Sheriff’s office, and was named the SRO, making her position full time. Sheriff Wimer noted that during the process, the Supervisors and School Board were concerned that if the position was not fully funded by the state, they did not want taxpayer funds to be used. He said he had made Ms. McGuire aware that if state funding was not available at the end of June, the SRO position would end, and she would go back to part-time.

When the state budget was finally agreed upon and passed roughly two weeks ago, there were no supplemental funds in it for the SRO position. Sheriff Wimer said Ms. McGuire has been given a date that she would return to part-time, as he was trying to stay true to the original agreement between all parties but negotiation was possible if the School Board and Supervisors wanted to allocate county funds to the position. He did note that there was room in his current budget to allow Ms. McGuire to return to the school to work on programs which were planned with her involvement last year, because the SRO position had been intended to be more multi-faceted, providing reading and learning sessions beyond the core mission of keeping students and staff safe.

Board member Sherry Sullenberger questioned County Administrator Roberta Lambert, who was also in attendance, about a statement the Supervisors’ chair David Blanchard made which said the money for the position was already in the Sheriff’s budget and had been approved. Ms. Lambert said this was true, if the Sheriff wanted to use those funds, but he clarified that had been added to his budget based on the anticipated grant funding with the understanding that that amount would be reimbursed by the state.

Ms. Sullenberger and Board Chair Kenny Hodges both reiterated their desire to have a school resource officer, noting that there was a memorandum of understanding already in place, but that the school system could not add the position to their already approved budget, besides the fact that it would be a Sheriff’s office employee, and up to the Board of Supervisors to fund. They passed a motion in approval of asking the Supervisors to do so, stipulating the position would be on a full time basis.

At their work session on Wednesday, October 20th, the Board of Supervisors tabled the issue, because Sheriff Wimer could not attend the meeting.

The Board also heard a presentation from school psychologist Diana Bowers Smith on Healthy Grandfamilies, a series of free discussion groups aimed to provide information and resources to grandparents who are raising one or more grandchildren. For more information on this, those interested can contact Ms. Smith at 540-468-6360.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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