BROOKSVILLE — The hiring of a full-time School Resource Officer for the Bracken County School District and a deputy to replace one that recently left was approved by the Bracken County Fiscal Court.
The Bracken County School District had a part-time SRO until Mareka Scott left. Since then, officers from the Bracken County Sheriff’s Office and Augusta Police Department have been filing the position.
Bracken County Sheriff Howard Niemeier has requested to have a full-time SRO in the district, because he has been unable to fill the position as part-time.
“We are looking to make this a full-time position during school,” Niemeier said. “In the summer time, they would be a road officer.”
According to Niemeier, the school would pay all costs for the officer during the 182 days the officer would work in the school district. The county would pay the costs during the summer when the officer is on the road, which would cost about $16,000 to $18,000.
“This is an excellent program,” he said. “It has done a remarkable job in the schools. We have been there since about 2015. Mareka was working part-time there about three days. I have put out advertisements for part-time and have not received any takers. It’s best to go with a full-time position, because we would also benefit from that. It would cut down on some of the overtime when people take vacations.”
Niemeier said the person hired does not have to be the one put in the school. The department could hire someone and put a current officer in the school district as an SRO.
According to Bracken County Judge-Executive Tina Teegarden, the contract with the school district is for a full-time SRO. However, previously there was an SRO in the building for three days a week and other officers were in the school picking up the two other days.
“Mareka carried three days at the school as regular time and the other two days were always overtime at the school?” Teegarden asked Niemeier.
“That is correct,” Niemeier said.
Teegarden said there needs to be a full-time SRO in the district, because the school district’s budget is tight with having to pay for overtime hours.
“The person hired as an SRO, they would be hired upon the contingency of keeping that contract,” Teegarden said. “Another thing I would like to say is, when we met — it was myself, two magistrates, Howard and Brittany — with the school, we had a discussion and asked about reimbursements for the county portion of matches to Social Security, Medicare, retirement and health benefits. On regular time hours, it would be a possibility the board could approve that. But if we continue on these time and a half overtime hours, I don’t know that the school’s budget can support to continue reimbursing salary county benefits. The main thing is we have to get someone — it actually falls on you, Howard — to get someone in there not working time and a half for the school’s budget to be able to support this as well.”
Teegarden said the school board also has to discuss and approve it.
Magistrate Craig Miller asked Bracken County Superintendent Jeff Aulick, who was present at the meeting, if he is required to have five days coverage from an SRO.
“The timeline we have from everyone — Mareka Scott was hired through a federal grant and left in September? Officer (Robert) Boody left the department in October. The sheriff’s office has been down to three deputies and the sheriff since then. Your insurance policy requires five days coverage no matter what? I’m looking from the standpoint of less employees in our sheriff’s department trying to cover your schools and all of our positions throughout the county. How much effect does this truly have on the Bracken County School System?”
Aulick said it is an important program.
“It’s a good program,” he said. “It’s way more then just being — as far as coverage — to build those relationships with students is just priceless. Currently, we are under contract with the sheriff’s department. If we don’t have someone there for coverage, liability would be an issue.”
“Liability for the school, the sheriff’s office and Bracken County Fiscal Court,” Teegarden added.
Teegarden said one of the problems is that the school system is in contract with the sheriff’s office and the money has been over-extended.
“One of the problems we have is that we have a school system in contract with the sheriff. The money has been over-extended, which is a breach of contract,” she said. “Not having someone in that school five days a week is also a breach of contract. The ends of both deals have to be kept up. If we’re going to be a part of this, we are going to have to resolve it.”
A motion was made to approve the sheriff’s budget with a full-time SRO position and hiring another deputy. It was approved unanimously.
Aulick said the board of education will discuss the SRO position at the board meeting on Monday.