By Jennifer Ortiz
HOWELL – Administrators in the Howell K-8 School District are discussing the idea of placing armed retired police officers in schools as a means of providing protection to students and staff members.
Board of Education members spoke about the issue during a meeting on Jan. 20. The talk involves officers who would be referred to as Special Officer III.
A bill that has been introduced in the state Legislature would create this class of officer.
Board member James Moretti Jr. said the new class of officers would be designated specifically for schools.
The hiring, training and oversight of Special Officer III personnel would be done through the Howell Police Department, according to the board.
Superintendent of Schools Joseph Isola said,”The consideration is in its infancy … the classification of Special Officer III has not been approved at the state level.”
Provisions exist for armed school resource officers to be stationed in schools to provide security and a measure of interaction with students, according to Isola. The SRO program has been reduced, likely in accordance with overall reductions within the police department, he said.
Board President Tim O’Brien said Special Officer III personnel would be highly qualified individuals who would work part-time without benefits.
“I know the top priority of this board, obviously, is the safety of our staff and students. We were leaders in terms of establishing the position of a security director years ago,” O’Brien said.
Isola said there are still a few SROs working in the district. Beyond that, he said, Howell police are continuing to work with district administrators to ensure a safe environment for students and staff members.
“Police officers, during their daily patrols, stop regularly at our schools and walk the buildings to ensure there is a positive police presence. I have great confidence in the school district’s partnership with Police Chief (Andrew) Kudrick and the entire police department as we work to maintain safe schools,” the superintendent said.