The Sherman High School will have a full-time school resource officer for the first day of classes later this month.
The Sherman City Council approved an interlocal agreement Monday with Sherman Independent School District to provide the district with a school resource officer for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year. The position will be filled by a full-time Sherman Police Department officer, with the school district funding 70 percent of the position’s salary and benefits. The city will cover the other 30 percent of the officer’s pay.
“It (the interlocal agreement) would allow us to include a police officer at the school as a permanent assignment,” Police Chief Zachary Flores said to the council. “Given the climate of our society, we definitely believe that this is a good move to have a consistent person in the school who knows who should be there and who should not be there. And be able to really help out SISD with the school security.”
Flores first presented the plan for the School Resource Officer Program to the council during the city’s budget workshop in June. He explained SPD traditionally provides officers at Sherman High, Piner, Dillingham and the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, but those officers often changed depending on availability and sometimes weren’t Sherman officers. Flores said the department’s officers are allowed to work as contractors for the schools on their off days using SPD equipment.
Flores said Officer Tom Caver has been chosen by an internal board to fill the full-time SRO position.
“We have a selection process for all of our specialized positions,” Flores said. “They have to apply, they go before a board of lieutenants and they get scored and then we place them in whatever position it is that they’re looking to get into.”
Flores said Caver, who has just under 20 years of experience with SPD and has previously worked in the district’s schools, came out on top of all the officers who went up for the position.
The interlocal agreement provides the full-time officer for the high school at a cost of $65,945.75 to the district. The city of Sherman will cover the remaining $28,262.47 of the officer’s $94,208.22 salary and benefits total. Flores said that salary is based on Caver’s tenure and experience with the department.
The interlocal agreement states Sherman ISD will also provide the officer an “appropriately furnished office.” In addition to enforcing laws and protecting students and staff, the SRO will provide classroom instruction on a variety of topics, including narcotics, safety, leadership and more. Sherman Police will also provide Caver with a patrol vehicle, which Flores said in June would be beneficial to the department.
“As it stands right now, those officers that go to work off duty drive their pickup out there and if they arrest somebody, then they have to call us and then we have to go out there anyway,” Flores said during the city’s budget workshop meeting. “So there is a need for them to have a vehicle out there.”
Sherman ISD Assistant Superintendent Tyson Bennett explained Monday why the district prefers to have the same officers in each school on a daily basis.
“One thing is it provides consistency for our staff and students, meaning that it gives staff and students an opportunity to build a rapport with one school resource officer, who is there on a daily basis,” Bennett said during a phone interview before Monday’s meeting. “As you build that rapport, you have more opportunities to build that relationship — get to know the students at that campus a lot better. And I think as you build that relationship, you have a greater impact as you’re working with students as a school resource officer.”
Bennett said the district hopes to expand the School Resource Officer Program with a goal of reaching five full-time officers by the 2020-2021 school year, which is when the new Sherman High School is currently scheduled to open.
“We’re excited about it,” Bennett said. “It just further develops our partnership with the city of Sherman and the Sherman Police Department, which we have an excellent relationship with. We’re very appreciative and look forward to growing the program.”
In June, Superintendent David Hicks said the expansion of the School Resource Officer Program would not alter the district’s “Guardian Plan” security policy that permits district staff members with previous law enforcement experience to carry firearms on campus.
The Sherman ISD board unanimously approved the policy last month. Under the plan, current district staff who have previously served as certified peace officers and were honorably discharged from duty are able to carry a concealed handgun. Participation in the program is voluntary and anonymous. Those who take part in the program must undergo a psychological evaluation, as well as firearm proficiency and active-shooter trainings conducted by the SPD.
Bennett said the district’s board of trustees will also discuss the School Resource Officer Program during its next meeting on Aug. 20.