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Johnston adds 7 school resource officers

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SMITHFIELD — Johnston County commissioners approved $120,820 for seven more school resource officers during their March 4 meeting. That means every county middle school will have an assigned SRO effective this fall.

“We have to be careful when dealing with partially funded programs from the state,” Board of Commissioners Chairman Ted Godwin said. “But and I’m glad we have such great cooperation between the school system, the sheriff’s department and the county.”

One of the schools receiving an SRO is Selma Middle. Selma Councilwoman Ann Williams, who had expressed concern about cost and liability issues in February for the town of Selma, said she’s pleased by the county’s action.

“I am very pleased to see the commissioners’ decision to add funds to the state safety grant so that the sheriff’s department can provide resource officers to seven middle schools including Selma Middle,” said Williams. “The original funds were not sufficient for the town to hire this officer, and in addition, by continuing to have this operation under the county just like all the high schools, the civil liability rests with them rather than the town. I look forward to this program beginning in the fall. I certainly hope that all of these officers have the required state training prior to their start date.”

Selma Middle School Principal Chris Germanoski said he’s excited for this opportunity to partner with Johnston County.

“It has been something that has been discussed for over a year, so I am glad we are finally getting to a point where it is a reality,” said Germanowski. “ We really want to ensure that this opportunity is one to build relationships with students, staff and the community.”

School board Chairman Mike Wooten said he’s grateful for the county’s assistance.

I would like to thank the county commissioners, Sheriff Bizzell and the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office, the local participating municipalities and all the members of the Board of Education for their collaboration and paving the way to make funding available for this grant,” said Wooten.

He added that the partial funding will allow Johnston County Public Schools to maximize its state grant for school resource officers.

“This proves that keeping our students and employees safe is our No. 1 priority in Johnston County. A safe environment creates a great learning environment,” Wooten said. “Thanks to all that made this happen to keep schools safer.”

Sheriff Steve Bizzell said the addition of seven deputies who will serve as resource officers reflects a strong partnership between his office, the county commissioners and the school system.

“As sheriff, I’m excited that we will be hiring seven additional school resource officers to be assigned to the middle schools in our county,” said Bizzell. “Public safety is the No. 1 priority of government, and the partnership between the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, Johnston County Board of Education and the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office remains strong.”

There are currently SROs at four of the district’s middle schools. JCPS applied for and received restricted grant funding through the N.C. Center for Safer Schools to help provide officers at middle and elementary schools.

The ultimate goal was to have an SRO in each middle school and for these middle school SROs to serve the elementary schools so that high school SROs could remain at their assigned schools all day.

The county-approved funding will be allotted for each year of the two-year state grant.

This alliance serves to strengthens the district’s safety program, which provides a plan of protection for the district’s 37,000 students and 5,000 staff members, said Superintendent Ross Renfrow.

Renfrow and Bizzell expressed their gratitude to county commissioners.

“We appreciate the partnership among the members of our board of education, county commissioners and the sheriff’s department,” said Renfrow. As we grow and continue to focus on educating our students, their safety is just as critically important to their well-being.”

“I would like to especially thank our Johnston County elected officials in the General Assembly who supported the grant funding initiative that has assisted in making this a reality,” Bizzell added.