Pocahontas County BOE Makes Case For Pro Officer In County Schools – Again
Marlinton, WV – Pocahontas County School Superintendent C.C. Lester is hoping the third time is the charm to get a Pro Officer in the county schools. After failing twice to win support from the Pocahontas County Commissioners for the law enforcement mentoring program, he and several members of the county’s Board of Education met with the Commissioners Tuesday morning to ask for their support once again.
Lester says the program is currently in 66 schools in 28 counties throughout the state. He also says there are a lot of misconceptions about the program. He says it’s not intended to be a cop in the classroom’ program – it’s geared more towards dealing with issues such as bullying in the schools. Commissioner Martin Saffer questioned Lester as to why this additional person is needed now.
“I guess the question I’m having is, what is the problem that the school itself feels it cannot handle?” asks Saffer.
“You’re right, when I went to school also, you had the family members there, you had a father; things have changed tremendously whether people like it or whether they don’t,” says Lester. “You have the computer, you have the cell phone, you have myspace , facebook. The rules and regulations have loosened up. Look at the problem we have out on the streets; look at the drug problem we have, the whole society’s changing.”
BOE members Jan McNeel and Emery Grimes also spoke about the need for a PRO officer in the schools.
“The most mischievous thing I did when I was a senior in high school was to toss a basketball up on the heating system,” says McNeel. “What we are looking at today is families in crisis, we’re looking at cyber-bullying, and major problems with social networking that didn’t exist when I left the classroom about 12 years ago.”
“There’s two or three things that’s good about this,” says Grimes. “He’s not just a deputy, he’s trained to look for certain items; it gets the kids more apt to come to a deputy or a state police and talk to that person.”
Commissioner Jamie Walker, a bus driver for the county schools, says he’s noticed the impression a law enforcement presence has on the kids.
“When you pull in, in the morning and that cop car is sitting there, it gets the kids’ attention,” says Walker. “It just puts a fear in them because they know that they may be under the gun’ immediately I feel. I just think the officer, not really controls more, but I think he carries more authority just by his actions.”
Cost for the program could be an issue. The program administered by the West Virginia Division of Justice provides grant funding to pay for the officer. However, while it may be fully funded at first, the amount of money available drops with each subsequent year, leaving the county to pick up the tab. Nonetheless, Commission President David Fleming made a motion to write a letter of support for the Board’s grant application to the PRO officer program. The motion passed two to one with Saffer opposed.
In other business, the Commissioners heard from John Simmons about a boiler room building at the East Fork Industrial park in Frank.
“What I would recommend to the Commission that we do with that thing is to scrap it out,” says Simmons. “That building was built in 1981, it is a steel building, no wood in it anywhere; [it’s] not really a suitable building to do anything with.”
He recommends putting it out for bid and estimates it may have as much as 25 to 30,000.00 worth of steel scrap. Fleming asked Sue Helton to put together an ad for the bid. Simmons says he will be available to give tours of the building for anyone interested in putting in a bid.
The Commission appointed Shannon Boehmer and Helen Clark to the county 911 Advisory board. They also approved the redistricting changes to county voting precincts resulting from the 2010 census as presented by County Clerk Melissa Bennett.
Please tune for noon hour on Thursday for more from the Pocahontas County Commission meeting.