Columbia OKs school resource officer

Zack Hopkins

The Columbia School Board completed the first actionable step Thursday night toward having a school resource officer.

The board approved an intergovernmental agreement between the school district and city of Columbia for the SRO during its regular board meeting.

Columbia Police Chief Jerry Paul said an SRO helps the district in several ways. 

“The benefit of a part-time SRO will be a more defined efficient process to help both the Columbia Police Department and Columbia School District administration accomplish our joint goals,” Paul said. “Hopefully the relationships developed with the one specific SRO will prove to be an advantage with students, parents and staff.  After a complete school year we will evaluate this model and assess if we reached our first year goals.”

District Superintendent Dr. Gina Segobiano said the SRO will increase police visibility in schools, but predicted the officer will not have as much work as in other cities.

“Our resource officer isn’t going to be used as some resource officers are in cities that might need more law enforcement for criminal offenses,” Segobiano said. 

As part of the agreement, the district will pay half of the officer’s salary up to 10 hours a week. The SRO will be veteran CPD officer Zack Hopkins. 

The matter now goes to the Columbia City Council, which will discuss it in committee on Aug. 27. If approved there, it would go before the entire council on Sept. 4. 

In addition to Hopkins, a new face in the Columbia school district was introduced Thursday.

Ted Schrader was sworn in as a new board member following the resignation of former board president Brad Roessler last month.

Schrader will serve until the next election cycle in April, when he may run for election. 

In other personnel news, at a special board meeting earlier this month the board approved the hiring of two new administrators. 

April Becherer is now principal of Parkview and Eagleview Elementary schools while Bob Dugan will serve as her assistant. Becherer succeeds Brad Landgraf, who left to become superintendent in Millstadt. 

After swearing in Schrader,  the board got to work approving items, including a change to board policy 4:60. 

Currently, the exhibit section of that policy says the superintendent has the authority to approve and authorize contracts up to $25,000 without board approval. 

The change, which was approved 5-1 on first reading, will now move that dollar amount into the body of the policy. 

Board member Tammy Hines, who has accused Segobiano of violating that policy, disagreed with the change. 

“I think $25,000 is too high,” she said before voting against it. “I’d like to see it more like $10,000.”

Hines said that would still give Segobiano leeway if emergency spending comes up. 

Segobiano said $10,000 is not very much in the operation of the school district, would not cover most expenditures, and would make emergency situations more difficult. 

Other board members did not express concerns with the $25,000 figure, as it matches the number in state law governing this issue.

In an interview with the Republic-Times, Regional Superintendent of Schools Kelton Davis said the threshold the board approved was legal.

A project that crosses that threshold was also approved by the board. 

At last month’s regular meeting, the board approved architectural services from Quadrant Design to change the locks on doors at Columbia High School. 

At this meeting, they saw the fruits of that $5,000 work, as Mike Schneider of Quadrant Design explained his company’s plan to replace the locks.

“What we’re proposing to do is change the latch sets – not the hinges, not the whole door and not the closer that makes it close automatically,” Schneider explained. “(We’re changing) just what you would call the doorknob at home except it’s going to be a lever.”

The board decided to have this work done because a school safety audit identified this as an area to improve.

The school was built in three sections, so it requires several keys to various doors. That multitude of keys could prove problematic. 

“It’s problematic if there’s a concern or an emergency situation like if somebody has a heart attack or a seizure,” Segobiano said.

By changing the latch sets, one master key will unlock every door in the school. 

Work will be required for 244 of the school’s 262 doors to make this happen.

The new locks will also help improve safety because they have a lock that can only be accessed from the inside.

“That would allow students or staff to then lock that door from inside the classroom without going out into the corridor should there be an unknown event,” Schneider said. 

Segobiano said the new locks will also improve efficiency, as custodians will have easier access to rooms. 

The new doors will also comply with the American with Disabilities Act.

A future remodel of buildings could also use the same cores, meaning one master key could unlock doors in multiple schools. 

“It’s definitely a needed thing,” Segobiano summarized. 

Schneider estimated the project will be completed by the end of winter break and cost $64,000.  

In other board news, Segobiano updated board members on two continuing issues in the district.

A building permit for the track re-spraying project is still awaiting approval at the Regional Office of Education. 

The ROE has approved, however, the survey for health/life safety funds. Once the state approves those funds, the district can use them to pay for the ventilation project in its welding classroom. 

Contrary to what was previously thought, the one welding class in the fall semester can continue operating while that installation occurs.

Finally, the district set a public hearing for its 2018-19 budget for 7 p.m. Sept. 25. 

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