Pocahontas School Superintendent Discusses PRO Officer With County Commissioners
Marlinton, WV – Pocahontas County Schools Superintendent CC Lester would like to have a Prevention Resource Officer in the county school system. Although not on the agenda, he spoke to the Pocahontas County Commissioners about the program during their regular meeting Tuesday night.
The PRO officer program is funded by grants from the West Virginia Division of Criminal Justice Services. These officers are meant to be a positive role model and mentor for middle and high school students. Pocahontas is one of 23 counties in the state that doesn’t have a PRO officer.
Wayne Plummer, now a Magistrate in Nicholas County, was one of the PRO officers at Richwood Jr. high School when Mr. Lester was Principal.
“I was a Deputy Sheriff in Nicholas County for thirty years; two of those years I spent at Richwood Jr. High, Mr. Lester was the Principal” says Plummer. “From a selfish standpoint of me, it was the best two years I had. When you think of a PRO officer, don’t think of a security officer; we get a lot of character classes. We didn’t just stand around we actually went into the classroom. I don’t know that a week would ever go by when that I wasn’t in some classroom teaching some type of class.”
Plummer says once the program was established, both students and parents came to rely on the program as evidenced in the feedback from annual surveys conducted by the Division of Criminal Justice.
“When you saw the feedback you got from the kids – they wanted us there; the teachers used me a lot” says Plummer. “I can’t speak highly enough about the program.”
Plummer explains how the program was paid for in Nicholas County, starting with a grant from the WV Division of Criminal Justice.
“So they’ll pay up to 75% of the officers salary to start it out” he says. “The [Nicholas] County Commission and the grant paid it; as money got tighter, we got money from the Board of Education. You have a match, usually about 10 percent, and we got the Board of Education to pay the cash match. Nicholas County now has four PRO’s [and] as you go, it costs you a little bit more, but they’re at least still 50 percent funded.”
There is a question of whether or not the Pocahontas County Board of Education would be able to provide any money for this request. Repeated requests from the Pocahontas County Free Libraries for additional funding to provide library services to children at Marlinton and Hillsboro Elementary schools have so far been denied. The Board says they don’t have the extra money to spend on those services. But without that money, Libraries Director Allen Johnson says they’ll have no choice but to discontinue those services in March.
And this is not the first time the Pocahontas County Commission has discussed a request for a PRO officer. However when the subject was broached last year, they were reluctant to pursue it because of questions of funding the position once the grant money is exhausted. Nevertheless, Commissioner Fleming asked that it be added to the agenda for the next Commission meeting.