CLINTWOOD — Good news arrived over the summer that means added security when Dickenson County schools open Thursday.
Dickenson County Sheriff Scott Stanley told the school board at its July meeting that the department had been awarded three new grants for school resource officers.
With the new funding, Stanley said, there will be two resource officers at Ridgeview and one dedicated to the Career Tech Center. There will be a floater for the high school and middle school, meaning three school resource officers in that one large building, he noted.
The department also has picked up one school resource officer at Sandlick Elementary that previously had been funded by the town of Haysi and Dickenson County. The department is now responsible for resource officers in all of the county schools, he noted.
At 100 percent match funding, all of this comes at no cost to the county, Stanley said, except for its match of vehicles and uniforms. The three grant awards were for four years and $70,000 each. He said he felt confident of getting a second award in four years.
The award came as a surprise, both Stanley and Fleming said.
One of the things Stanley said contributed to the award “was the size of Ridgeview itself. It’s a campus. It’s a large facility.”
So, not the number of students? Ervinton District board member Shanghai Nickles asked. Stanley said he believed it was the size of the campus.
“We’re just tickled to death,” the sheriff said. “It’s new officers for us. It’s more officers for us. More protection in the schools.”
When the first buses arrive in the morning, a school resource officer is there, and they are there when the last buses leave in the evening, he said.
If officers have another commitment, such as court, “they don’t leave until another officer is on site, so the schools are covered,” Stanley said.
Stanley introduced two of the new resource officers:
• Chad Elkins, 19 years experience in law enforcement, is assigned to float between high school and middle school at Ridgeview.
• Rolley WHO, 15 years experience, is assigned to the career tech center.
• Cynthia Sutherland, a new-hire, will be assigned to Ervinton Elementary once she has completed training at the academy, Stanley said, noting that former SRO Jeremy Osborne is filling in until she’s out of the academy.
• Stephanie Mullins is assigned to Sandlick Elementary School.
Assistant Sheriff Kelly Fleming said Gov. Ralph Northam had pushed a school safety initiative and the grant opportunity presented itself around March.
As they discussed needs, Fleming said he wasn’t sure at first if they needed an additional officer at Ridgeview, but realized “our school stays busier almost than the road does out in the county.”
Sizing up the scope of Ridgeview and the distinct needs and risks at the
career center, they decided to try for additional officers there and the Sandlick position.
“We couldn’t have gotten better news,” Fleming said.
He expressed appreciation for the support they got from the school division and the community, noting that some had thought additional officers might be overkill.
Nickles said he was appreciative of the extra set of eyes and legs on the ground.
Stanley said, “Our schools are our Fort Knox. Our children. That’s
what we have to take care of.”
Chair Susan Mullins, who also heads the county’s social services department, said they are fortunate. She has heard other social services departments talk about some problems with getting law enforcement response. “I’m proud to say we never had that issue,” she said.