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February 17, 2013

City schools, City of Cullman to provide armed police at every school

CULLMAN — Armed police officers providing security will continue to be a common sight at Cullman City Schools.

In the wake of the brutal school shooting that left 26 dead at a Connecticut elementary school late last year, the City of Cullman has teamed up with the city school system to station retired police officers at every city school for the remainder of the 2012-2013 school year.

A police presence was added immediately after the Connecticut shooting as a precaution, but that temporary arrangement is beginning to stretch the resources of the Cullman Police.

City schools superintendent Dr. Jan Harris said the new joint initiative to add retired officers is the formal evolution of that arrangement.

“We absolutely support that, and just recently the mayor said there is nothing more important than the safety of our children, and I completely agree with that,” Harris said.

The school board will cover $38,750 in salary and benefits for five officers over 75 remaining student days at a rate of $12 per hour. The city will pay $42,500 in training, certification, uniforms, equipment, and automobiles. Both the city and school board will work together to develop a job description for the officers.

“We’re working to create a framework of cooperation between the city and the schools,” council president Garlan Gudger, Jr. said.

Council member Jenny Folsom said the agreement was an easy decision to support, as it will provide an extra layer of security for local children and teens.

“I think its a wonderful partnership for both sides to contribute to the safety of all students,” she said.

By using retired officers, the city hopes to take the manpower burden off the police department and share it with the school system. Retired officers are also less expensive to use, as they are technically contracted employees.

“There are five campuses but our goal is to have 10 officers, so there will be a large enough pool to ensure someone is available for every school every day,” Gudger explained. “Those officers have all the experience and training, and this is a less expensive route to help keep the expenses lower.”

Cullman Primary School Principal Tricia Culpepper said it has been a great experience having a police presence on campus in recent months and she is looking forward to making it a permanent solution.

“It has been a wonderful asset to have police officers on our campus everyday and we’re so appreciative of the city and our school board working together to make this a permanent situation so we can have just the additional security on campus,” she said. “Our parents, teachers and students have all really liked having our police officers on campus.”

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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