EATON — Eaton Community Schools Board of Education was question about school safety once more, during a meeting on Monday, May 14.
Community member Mike Halderman brought his concerns to the board again. He had spoken during a special school safety meeting held in March, but explained, not all his questions were answered to his satisfaction.
“As far as school counselors and mental health staff at the school, are you overwhelmed? Are we adequately staffed? Do we have those people in place or is that something we can and should look to in the future, as a way to improve resources to students who are having issues,” he asked.
Superintendent Barbara Curry answered, “There is a need. We do have the Success Liaison who has that social worker role. We have two mental health therapists and we will have three next year, because there is that need to increase services.”
She added, the funding for that will come from the general fund. Halderman asked if they could reach out to retired mental health staff and social workers in hopes of saving the district money, but Curry explained, the school likes to go through an agency so there are supervisors who can evaluate their staff.
Halderman asked board member Brian Pool if the board has discussed utilizing retired police and veterans to protect the schools. Pool noted, “I don’t feel comfortable telling everything we discussed as a board in executive session. I don’t think that is something any of us should be doing.”
“Isn’t executive session for personnel issues and some private security issues? But if it is talking about an SRO or reaching out to the community, that isn’t a private security issues,” Halderman said.
“Any type of safety or security issues can be discussed during executive session,” board Vice-President Terry Parks said. “It is expected to be discussed during executive session. I don’t think we as a board of the community wants us to lay all of our cards on the table.”
Parks added, during the March special school safety meeting, Superintendent Curry and Eaton Police Sergeant/ECS Board Member Eric Beeghly shared recent safety updates. The board let them lead that discussion and share as much as they felt comfortable.
“Have you applied for a grant through the Preble County Sheriff’s Department, as National Trail School District has, for partial support of a School Resource Officer?” Halderman asked.
Parks answered, they have not, because they have not discussed doing so due to the ongoing superintendent search. They are waiting to make any school safety decisions until the new superintendent is in place.
“We discussed that and agreed that no rash decisions should be made until you’ve chosen a new superintendent, however, these issues go way back, before [Curry] announced her retirement,” Halderman said. “I understand why you want to wait now, but that is not an excuse for why you have not discussed it up to this point.”
“I’m not sure what you’re looking for,” Parks said.
“I’m looking for the Eaton School Board to apply for a grant through the Sheriff’s Department that helps you provide a School Resource Officer, if that is what teachers, staff, and school board finds appropriate,” Halderman said.
He added, he would like to see the Eaton School community complete a survey to see what their opinions on school safety are — whether they would support an Armed Staff Response, SRO, or another safety measure.
“We have a lot of stuff that we have been dealing with, but that does not mean we’ve put [school safety] on the back burner. We have talked about things that I cannot share with you. That is all I can say,” Parks said. “I’m not trying circumvent what you’re asking, what I’m trying to do is tell you that it is on our list of priorities. There is no one answer that is going to solve this situation. That is our main goal, that kids and teachers come to school and they are safe. That has to be number one.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH