News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 10, 2013

School Board to consider putting special deputies in rural Vigo schools

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County School Board on Monday will consider a funding proposal to help put special deputies in 10 Vigo County School Corp. rural, county schools.

The proposal would require $135,000 in funding from county government and a $135,000 match from the school district.

Sheriff Greg Ewing will present the proposal at the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. He created a Safe Schools Task Force and worked with the group to develop the plan, aimed at strengthening school safety and security.

The recommendation is a response to the “horrific events” that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Ewing wrote in a letter to the county auditor and county council.

Rural schools, particularly those in more remote locations, are at higher risk because law enforcement response time is longer, he said.

The 10 special deputies would be non-merit employees, and they would be at the school for the duration of the school day — from before it starts until after it ends.

Ewing anticipates using several retired law enforcement officers, who have previously received training at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. Also, those individuals chosen would have to be the “right fit” for the schools, he said.

During a news conference Tuesday, Tanoos stated, “We have the resources available financially to support this not only this year, but into the future.”

The district has a healthy, 16 percent general fund cash balance, Tanoos said. Another possible source of funding involves agreements with private companies that are providing revenue to the district.

The Vigo County Council also will have to approve its share of the funding. It’s expected the proposal would be assigned to a committee this month and then acted upon in March.

During a news conference, several council members voiced their support.

The schools that would have special deputies are Otter Creek and Honey Creek middle schools, as well as Rio Grande, Lost Creek, Riley, Dixie Bee, Hoosier Prairie, West Vigo, Sugar Creek Consolidated and Fayette elementary schools.

Because West Vigo Middle School and High School are attached, the role of the security officer already assigned to the high school will be expanded to include the middle school.

The sheriff’s department would create a new school security division. The special deputies would have to have prior law enforcement or criminal justice experience, and they also would have to undergo school safety specialist training through the school district.

School security employees would be paid through the school district, according to the Ewing’s proposal.

If the proposal receives approvals from the county council and school board, Ewing said the new special deputies potentially could be in place before the end of the school year, and “most definitely by the start of the next school year.”

But in the meantime, he’s instituted other measures to provide added security to rural, county schools.

In other matters the board will be asked to approve a $360,000 innovation grant from the Indiana Department of Education. It will allow Terre Haute North Vigo, South Vigo and West Vigo high schools to focus on obtaining more dual credit opportunities for students. The district is working with Indiana State University in the project.

The board also will be asked to approve a $929,555 contract with Associated Roofing Professionals for roofing projects.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.