By TONY STINNETT/ Courier Sports Editor
The Cannon County School System has disaster plans in place in the event of emergencies or disasters but its seven schools could be even safer if a plan that includes seven School Resource Officers (SROs) being hired - one for each school, comes to fruition.
School safety is at the top priority for educators and a primary concern for parents of children in those schools, particularly in the wake of the recent Sandy Hook shooting.
Discussion of school safety was a key topic during the Cannon County Board of Education during its regular monthly meeting at the Woodbury Grammar School Thursday (Feb. 14).
Board member Bruce Daniel said he had visited with principals in other counties and towns that utilize SROs.
"The principals told me one of the benefits of having them is the discipline greatly improves with just the presence of these officers on campus," Daniel said. "We need to be progressive in this direction. It is easier to prevent than it is to cure when you have a problem. We need to look at this like health insurance. We can't afford health insurance but we can't afford not to have it. We need to look at this as an investment. We would be progressive in this and we would be proud of it down the road."
Hiring seven officers would cost in excess of $400,000, not including benefits. The officers would be employees of either the Cannon County Sheriff's Department or Woodbury Police Department.
County Commissioner Kevin George was in attendance to answer any questions the Board may have. George would approach the Cannon County Commission for funds to hire the seven officers for each of the schools in the Cannon County System.
Cannon County High School is currently the only school in the system that utilizes an SRO but he is only budgeted for 10 hours per week.
Board member Chris Blackburn said school safety is a top priority and measures need to be taken to make schools even safer when possible.
"It is no secret how strapped we are for money in Cannon County," Blackburn said. "I also think it is no secret that if you ask a parent who has a child in school what that life is worth they would tell you there is no dollar value on that life. The law enforcement agencies and the county commissioners, along with the school system, need to come to an agreement and find a way to fund it and make it happen."
Director of Schools Barbara Parker and Daniel will form a committee that includes the Cannon County Sheriff, Woodbury Chief of Police and other Disaster Relief Agency heads to come up with a plan to propose and that SROs are part of the plan but there would be other things included in the plan that would not cost money.
Parker recently attended a School Safety Summit in Franklin and returned with information, power point presentations and statistics regarding school safety and how to be prepared in the event of emergencies.
In other business, the Board granted Auburn School Principal Melinda Crook permission to continue repair work that was started but not completed at the school gym. Auburn School will pay to insulate areas in the hallway and emergency exits, as well as restrooms.
The Board also granted permission for Courtney Nichols to pursue a $100,000 Perkins Reserve Grant for the purpose of a culinary arts course at CCHS. The CCHS Baseball program also was granted permission to apply for a $100,000 Major League Baseball Tomorrow Grant for field improvements. Adam Sauer and Justin Fann were approved as non-faculty assistant baseball coaches.
WGS Principal Bonnie Patterson was granted permission to pave the walking track at WGS and build a sidewalk from the grammar school to the playground to make it more handicap accessible.
The Board gave approval for the Mechatronics program at Motlow State Community College. Students enrolling in the program will have to pay a $150 fee. It is an afternoon class from noon-to-3 p.m. The course is offered at the McMinnville campus.
Parker recognized the top three finishers of the Cannon County Spelling Bee that will represent the county in the Regional Spelling Bee at MTSU. Auburn student Shelby Seamans finished first, followed by Ollie Wallace (West Side), and Chadler Todd (WGS). This year also marked the first time ever that a second-grader participated. The spelling bee lasted five rounds.
Parker recognized the Cannon County Schools for the results of the yearly School Wide Positive Behavior Support Survey. The survey is conducted with students and staff of each school and scoring is based on knowledge of the program. All seven schools met the 80 percent scoring