By Greg Bird
The McCreary County Board of Education and Sheriff Randy Waters reached an agreement last week to keep School Resource Officers operating under the Sheriff’s bond until they can complete certification as Special Law Enforcement Officers.
At a special-called meeting last week Superintendent Corey Keith informed the Board that the Sheriff had rejected a Memorandum of Understanding first presented to him before the meeting due to some terms that he felt uncomfortable with. The Board authorized Keith, along with Board Chair Dustin Stephens and Vice-Chair Deborah Gibson to meet with the Sheriff to work out a deal that was satisfactory to both sides.
By Wednesday evening a new agreement was in place that will temporarily transfer the SRO’s to the Sheriff’s staff as paid deputies. The school district will reimburse the Sheriff for the cost of salaries and benefits for the officers each month.
The agreement allows the SRO’s to operate as normal in the schools, with full arrest powers. Once they are certified as SLEO’s, and revert back to District employees, they will have the same authority – but only while on school property or performing school-related job duties.
The agreement stipulates the services provided to the Board by the Sheriff are as an independent contractor, and the SRO’s will answer to the Superintendent throughout the length of the memorandum of understanding (MOU).
Sheriff Waters stated the original MOU he was asked to sign included clauses that would require him to be responsible for some expenses, such as equipment, training and some salary requirements like withholding and workman’s compensation. The Sheriff asked for those items to be removed before he would sign the agreement.
During the meeting Keith stated the process to get the SRO’s certified was estimated to take 2-8 weeks to complete and was already underway, and any agreement with the Sheriff would only be temporary.
With the agreement in place, SRO’s will function as normal until their certification is complete.
The Board also voted to allow the SRO’s to take an authorized leave of absence if they were required to attend SELO training with the Kentucky Justice Cabinet to finalize their certification process.
The Board of Education voted in May to keep SRO’s as District employees, as opposed to Sheriff’s Deputies, which is common in most school districts in the state. The move created the need to certify the employees as SLEO’s under the new laws passed this year by the Kentucky Legislature concerning school safety.
The Sheriff’s bond only covers paid deputies under his administration, and volunteer deputies – who don’t get paid. With the District paying the salaries of the SRO’s they were no longer eligible to come under the original bond.
There has been some questions raised as to why the District felt the need to keep the SRO’s as District employees, rather than actual deputies – mainly over the cost.
According to the most recent salary schedule approved by the Board of Education SRO’s work 8 hours a day for 185 days and earn a base salary between $26,270 and $28,416 annually, or about $17.75 an hour and up. The Head SRO is paid an additional stipend of $2,000.
By comparison McCreary County Sheriff’s Deputies, paid through the Fiscal Court, are paid an annual base salary of $23,753.60 for 260 days of work in a year, or $11.42 an hour.
Sheriff Waters said he agreed to the MOU in the interest of public safety and cooperation with the school district, but he wished he would have had more opportunity to discuss the issue with the Board prior to the decision to make the officers employees of the District.