The topic on the administration's, board members', citizens' and other government officials minds the most during the Board of Education's meeting was the safety of the children in Fannin County schools.
Discussions of ways to improve each school in the school system in order to maximize security for Fannin's students filled the air during the January 2013 meeting. Assistant Superintendent, Art Hubbard, explained plans for modification of each school and presented proposals for upgrading the security equipment already in place. The board agreed that the proposed changes needed to be made in a timely fashion and that they were open to any necessary special called meetings in order to approve any bids received to fulfill these plans.
In light of the Sandy Hook tragedy, Superintendent, Mark Henson began seeking additional sources in order to obtain two additional School Resource Officers (SRO). When Henson didn't get a response from Sherriff Dane Kirby, he asked the City of Blue Ridge to fund an officer. Mayor Donna Whitener took the matter before her city council and the decision to provide and fund an SRO at Blue Ridge Elementary school was unanimously approved.
Simonds addresses the members of the Fannin County Board of Education regarding the funding of a School Resource Officer.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Commissioner Chairman, Bill Simonds, stood up to speak and address the issue.
“The county has agreed to fund one additional SRO to be used in the county. The Sheriff is not authorized to dispense any funds and that is why he did not agree to provide and officer upon Henson's request”
he said. After Simonds made his offer, Mayor Donna Whitener spoke on behalf of the city.
“We are happy to help in any way that we can...whatever you need, we will help. The safety of our children is our top priority and that is why my council voted to provide and fund the SRO for Blue Ridge Elementary, since that is the only school within the city limits”
After the close of public comment, Superintendent Henson requested the board to accept the assistance of the city and for their approval to work with Mayor Whitener and Chairman Simonds to provide a total of two resource officers. In the event that Simonds isn't willing to honor his offer in the acceptance of the the Mayor's offer, Henson requested that the board agree to fund one SRO in order to provide an SRO at each of the five schools in the county. The board accepted Henson's request.
Later, Simonds stated that the county provides the three SROs the school system currently has.
“We don't need outsiders coming in to help with this. It is going to be trouble in the long run”
he said in regards to Whitener stating that the city funded SRO would work under Darvin Couch, which is the supervisor of the SROs.
Whitener responded by explaining to Henson that their [city of Blue Ridge] intent wasn't to make the situation a more difficult one and that if the school system needed their help, that was fine but if not, that was fine too.
“It is not going to hurt our feelings either way”
In closing, the final remarks by Superintendent Henson were filled with gratitude for the City of Blue Ridge and the County's willingness to help but he also expressed his feelings regarding the students by saying
“Our students are our top priority and we want to keep them safe.”
Board member, Lewis DeWeese ellaborated on what Henson had said and stated that he was happy to have the problem of having so many people wanting to help. Bobby Bearden added that kids were number one to everyone at the table and that his love of kids is the reason he has served on the board for ten years. “Children are our number one” seemed to be the theme of all the closing remarks by the board members.
After the meeting, when Chairman Simonds was approached and asked if the county was indeed sponsoring and SRO.
When Mayor Whitener was asked if she had intentions of retracting her offer to the school system she explained that she was just there to offer help in light of the tragedy in Newtown, CT.
“The city will be happy to provide an SRO at Blue Ridge Elementary. I know several kids in the school system and their safety and security while at school is very important to me. In fact, when I have to leave during the day, I make a point to drive through there on my way back to the office just so I can see for myself what is going on”
Further discussions will be held between Henson, Whitener and Simonds in the future to determine who will be providing the two additional School Resource Officers needed by the county. FYN will keep you updated on the latest information that comes from this discussion.