Richmond Co. votes to hire 2 public safety officers for schools

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Richmond County Schools will soon have two new safety officers in their elementary schools. Right now, they have officers in middle schools and high schools, but none in the elementary schools. At the meeting Tuesday night, they decided to change that.

"I think it's a great thing just for a sense of security," said Cheri Ogden, who has been a elementary school principal in Richmond County for four and a half years.

"It makes you feel secure, it makes you realize that there's somebody designated for your school to keep an eye on your children, your staff, and to provide a second look at your security measures," she said.

The two officers will join 30 other school safety officers, but these will be dedicated solely to elementary schools.

"One will have the north schools and one will have the south," said Deputy Superintendent Tim Spivey.

"It's good for the staff to know that we have someone that's designated for us to call if we were to need security in the school," Ogden said.

After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., it made schools look at their own safety procedures.

"I think it's made us all more aware and more cautious," Ogden said.

But officials say this was in the works before the shooting in Newtown happened.

"Things can happen anywhere. In the theater, churches," Spivey said. "We're looking to add a couple officers because we're already short."

They say the ultimate goal would be to have an officer in every school, but the money's just not there.

"We're in a budget crisis right now, and therefore, the cost would be astronomical to place officers in every school," said Capt. Ted Brown, interim director of school safety.

So, for now, they're focusing on the safety of the elementary schools, a top priority for Ogden every day.

"Parents have trusted us with the safety of their children, so yeah, we're on high alert and we're making sure we're on point and we're doing what we can to make sure we protect them," she said.

The positions were approved Tuesday night. Now they can start looking for who will fill those positions and present their recommendations at the meeting in February.

As for the money, it's coming from the lieutenant position that used to be filled by now-Sheriff Richard Roundtree. Instead of hiring a new lieutenant, they will leave that position open and use the money to hire these new officers.

They are also working to hire a new chief after Patrick Clayton moved to the Sheriff's Office. They have taken applications and are getting ready to set up a panel and start interviewing. They say that should happen by the end of the month.

The board gets the final say on who gets hired in February.

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