To carry firearms or not to carry firearms. That's the question that may reform security in the Yazoo County School District.
Superintendent Becky Fisher raised the issue during the Aug. 4 school board meeting.
“This is something that is going on all over the state,” Fisher said, adding that security consultant Cooper Dixon of the Mississippi Department of Education will visit the district soon. “Whether we like it or not, it's becoming a reality.”
Asked what the trustees' thoughts are concerning the issue, Trustee Larry Walls said, “I'm totally against it.”
Trustee Dewel Ladner said he “might” consider using armed security on the Bentonia-Gibbs Elementary School and the Linwood Elementary School campuses, “but I don't think at the (Yazoo County High School. It's too easy to get guns taken away from (armed security) on the high school level.”
He said that perhaps security personnel should use alternative weapons, such as tasers or pepper spray.
“That's something to be studied pretty close,” Ladner added.
Trustee Chastity Magyar didn't speak on the issue, but Trustee Greg Moseley expressed concern about security staffing and the possibility of losing current personnel.
“Are we looking at all our security guards getting certified to carry or what?” Moseley asked Fisher.
“Possibly,” she said. “It could be just one on this (middle school and high school) campus.”
Following the discussion, no action was taken pending the consultation with Dixon.
Dixon performed an unannounced school safety audit last year and has reported his findings with Fisher. He said there is no problem with the school district's existing security plans.
Cooper, a Yazoo County native, spoke to the trustees about the school district's security plan during the school board's Dec. 1, 2015 meeting.
Currently, the school district has School Safety Officers (SSO) on each of the district's three campuses.
“They are paraprofessional security personnel,” Dixon said during the Dec. 1 meeting. “They have no arrest power. They do not carry a weapon.”
The district's security personnel will be required to go through the SSO-training, which is offered by the MDE.
Another classification of school security personnel is School Resource Officers (SRO)
“Those are sworn, full-time police officers and … their beat is the school,” he explained. “They are there in the morning when the teachers get there, and they're the last ones to leave when the kids leave. They have arrest powers. They are … full-blown police officer(s) ….”
Dixon said the SROs go through the Department of Education's eight-day training, starting off with active shooter training. The Mississippi Legislature has provided funding for the SRO personnel, allowing $10,000 per officer. The school district could have a memorandum of understanding with the Yazoo County Sheriff's Department to provide deputies who would serve as the SROs.
The district currently has three SSOs and no SROs. The average salary of an SRO is $32,000 to $35,000 per year, according to Dixon.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tom Taylor said it would be beneficial to have an SRO and an SSO on the Yazoo County High School and Yazoo County Middle School campus, an SRO on the Bentonia-Gibbs Elementary School campus, and an SRO on the Linwood Elementary School campus.
In other school board business, the trustees:
* Approved a resolution for the emergency purchase of new air conditioners for Yazoo County Middle School's cafeteria at a cost of $54,000.
* Approved the district-wide Community Eligibility Provision for 2016-2017, which makes free meals available to all students attending school in the Yazoo County School District.
* Accepted two U.S. flags from an anonymous donor. The flags will be used in front of the district's central office and middle school.
* Awarded matching bids on Township 10N-Range 4W and Township 10N-Range 2E.
* Heard Chief Financial Officer Lisa Worthy report that the final tax request to the Yazoo County Board of Supervisors has been finalized. She said that Yazoo County Administrator Donna Kraft had reported the value of one mill had increased “a small amount” to a tentative value of $142,858.03.
“This tax request will keep us at our 43.14 mills that we had last year,” Worthy said.
“That's more money than we had last year?” Magyar asked.
“Slightly,” Worthy responded.
“Does that mean that we asked for an increase?
“No, it's just part of new growth and it's because the millage rate went up.”
Worthy went on to explain that last year's millage rate was $139,541.07, “so we're not talking about very much per mill, like $3,000 roughly.... That is not the final value. Right now, we're just working with the estimate, and that's the closest estimate we were able to get at the first of the week.”
Following the discussion, the trustees approved the final tax resolution with three voting “aye” and Ladner abstaining.