When the 2019-2020 school year gets underway this August, Johnston County Public Schools will have a School Resource Officer in every middle school in the county.
Monday night, Johnston County Commissioners approved a request from Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow and Sheriff Steve Bizzell to accept a matching state grant to pay for the seven new officers.
The cost for each officer is $65,260 per year which includes the salary, health insurance and related benefits. The grant will pay $48,000 of the cost. Johnston County Commissioners agreed to pick up the remaining $17,260 cost per officer or $120,820 per year for the seven deputies who will be assigned to the middle schools.
The officers will be placed at: Cleveland Middle, Swift Creek Middle, McGee’s Middle, Archer Lodge Middle, Meadow Middle, North Johnston Middle, and Selma Middle School.
Recently, the Selma Town Council requested the grant to place a Selma officer at Selma Middle. The Micro Town Board also turned down the same grant for an officer at North Johnston Middle School. Those schools will be among the 7 that will have resource officers beginning this Fall.
“As the sheriff told me recently, education is not the primary objective of local government it is the safety of our society,” Superintendent Renfrow told Commissioners Monday night while seeking approval. Four resources officers were added at Benson Middle, Clayton Middle, Four Oaks Middle and Riverwood Middle School recently.
“As Sheriff I wholeheartedly support this,” Sheriff Bizzell told Commissioners. “We owe this to our kids, grandkids, and their parents. I appreciate the partnership with county commissioners and the school board.”
Once the deputies are hired and assigned to the 7 middle schools this Fall, there will be a school resource officer at every middle and high school in Johnston County.
“It’s a small price to pay for the security of our children,” Sheriff Bizzell said after Commissioners approved the $120,820 expenditure. “I would like to especially thank our Johnston County elected officials in the General Assembly who supported the grant funding initiative that has assisted in making this a reality.”
The state grant is for two years. Renfrow said he had been in touch with State Representative Larry Strickland who has indicated he will work to make sure the grant funds are extended beyond two years.
While running for office in 2016, School Board Member Ronald Johnson campaigned on having a resource officer in every middle school in the county. On Wednesday he told WTSB, “I’m very thankful we could all come together and make this a reality. This is the main thing I wanted accomplished because unfortunately the world is not the same place it was 20 years ago. We owe this to our children, teachers and staff. If you aren’t safe or do not feel safe, the last thing on your mind is teaching or learning.”
Johnson, who is a detective with the Smithfield Police Department added, “This also gives students an opportunity to interact meaningfully with law enforcement and show them we aren’t bad guys as we are often portrayed in some media outlets. I would like to express my appreciation to the municipalities of Clayton, Smithfield, Four Oaks, and Benson for providing police officers to protect children and staff where they are most vulnerable. Next, we need to staff the elementary schools with Resource Officers. The education system is changing and will continue to change, but it’s always good to get back to basics. The two basics I’m referring to are school safety and student achievement. I’m thankful we were able to staff the middle schools. Now, let’s finish the job and staff elementary schools.”
Johnston County Public Schools has 37,000 students and 5,000 staff members.