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June 29, 2013

County schools closer to adding more deputies for security

The Cullman County School System is one step closer in boosting its security for the upcoming school year.

The Cullman County Board of Education has pursued a federal grant totaling approximately $200,000. This grant will help to fund the addition of four resource officers within the school system. Officials say there are currently seven officers shared among the county’s 11 campuses.

Cullman County Sheriff Mike Rainey said the county commission met Tuesday to approve a memorandum of understanding, which is part of the information that was needed in order to send off for the grant.

“We have several schools without resource officers. I originally asked for seven, but I’m just hoping for four,” Rainey said. “My personal opinion, every school should have an armed resource officer. It’s the only way to protect our children.”

According to county schools superintendent Billy Coleman, the grant will help fund the salaries of the officers for the first three years. The school system, in conjunction with the county commission, will both pay a yearly percentage: 10 percent the first year, 25 percent the second year and 35 percent the third year. Afterward, the school system and commission would assume the full salary for one more year.

“Certainly, resource officers are a great deterrent. This grant would make it financially possible for us,” Coleman said. “We’re very excited.”

The escalating number of school shootings within recent years has hit close to home for Coleman. “Like everybody, I was shocked and saddened. You just hit your knees praying because of the tragedy.” He continued to say that prevention is the key and that all school systems are trying to take the steps to help their schools.

Randy Hasenbein, a Cullman County Board of Education member, said anything to make the schools safer is a step in the right direction.

“Actions in response to those types of incidents isn’t a choice; sometimes it becomes a necessity,” Hasenbein said. “Our children’s safety, the schools’ safety, is a priority with this school board and its superintendent. You have to create an atmosphere where the students feel safe.”

Vinemont High School principal Brandon Payne said his school, along with Vinemont’s elementary and middle schools, currently has a resource officer. Payne said there are approximately 1,100 students total from kindergarten through 12th grade at Vinemont. He said the close proximity of the schools helps when there is only one officer on the entire campus.

“In the future, if funding is available, an officer per school would be ideal,” “Payne said. “We get support from our faculty, staff, board of education, sheriff’s department and our communities. We are diligently trying to provide a safe and secure environment.”

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