By John R. Schirmer
The Nashville School District continues to focus on school safety with the first day of classes set for Monday, Aug. 15.
In a special meeting Monday, the school board approved two recommendations from Superintendent Doug Graham related to school safety.
Board members accepted Graham’s recommendation to add a second school resource officer.
The officer “will be an employee of the city,” Graham said, and will fill in on Nashville’s police force during school breaks.
Last week, the Nashville City Council approved the school’s request for an additional officer.
The school district will pay about $40,000 of the officer’s salary, Graham said, with the city paying about $15,000.
“The officer will be paid by the city. They’ll send us an invoice quarterly” for the district’s share. “It’s a good deal. We’re adding a resource officer to protect us,” Graham said.
The city will take applications and interview prospects. “I hope we have someone in place by the first of school or the first part of the school year,” Graham said.
The new hire will join current resource officer Hector Cortez.
Board members also approved Graham’s recommendation to allow properly trained staff members to carry concealed weapons on campus.
The employees will be part of the Emergency Response Team, Graham said.
“We’ll add licensed or classified staff. They’ll be trained in the state police program to be concealed carriers on all four campuses,” according to Graham. In the event of an active shooter at school, a resource officer or a concealed carry employee will have the opportunity to stop the shooter and “cut the number of casualties,” Graham said.
Selecting the staff members for the program “is a process. We’ll have a vetting process to go through for the Arkansas State Police program. It will require 60 hours of training.”
If the individual meets all the requirements and completes the training, the person will be a security guard on the school campus, according to Graham, and will be recognized as a Certified Special Security Officer.
“If we start this fall, we can get several through the program and get them trained,” Graham said.
The police department “recommends that the new officers have the same kind of gun. They recommend a Glock 43X,” Graham said.
The district has asked any staff members who are interested in the program to notify the administration.
“I don’t know how many we’ll have” who will be interested, Graham said. “Districts around us are getting 10-15.”
The officers who complete the program will remain anonymous, according to Graham. “The average person will never know who’s carrying a weapon.”
The school district will have a manager for the program to keep up with paperwork and training.
Interim Assistant Superintendent Joe Kell said the vetting process “is quite extensive.”
The school district, the police department and the program’s trainer all will be part selecting and training. “The police department and trainer can wash them out of the program if the trainer sees they’re not serious. Some will wash themselves out,” according to Kell.
“If they go the process, they’re highly trained, professional security officers,” Kell said.
In response to a question from board members, the security officer’s gun “will not be kept in a drawer. It will be on the officer’s person at all times. We’ll have a policy for that. If they violate it, there will be consequences,” Kell said.
Assistant Superintendent Tate Gordon said he has contacted several schools. All but one are participating in the program. The other district likely will sign on later.
Graham said personnel are accepted into the program will receive a $2,000 stipend the first year to cover the gun, ammunition and training. The stipend for the second year will be determined.
“I hope we get 15 or 20 sign up and get the right 15 to 20,” Graham told the board.
His recommendation passed 4-0.
Present at the noon meeting Monday were board president Tem Gunter, Jerry WIlson, David Hilliard and Nick Britt. Jamar Finley was absent.