School Drops Resource Officer Contract

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Officials with the Nelsonville-York City School District are determined to have a school resource officer, but school board members have decided to get one on their own. The board voted during Wednesday’s board meeting to drop the proposed contract with the Athens County Sheriff’s office and to arrange for an SRO in-house.

“We didn’t feel like the new language (in the contract) met our needs or the goals we had in mind for our SRO,” said Supt. Mick McClelland. “We’re kind of starting over, but it’ll be all in-house.”

Instead, the school will advertise for the new school position, possibly as soon as Thursday. Board President Micah Covert said he thinks his father, Duane Covert — a recently retired Nelsonville police officer, will apply.

“I’m pleased we’re able to handle this in-house,” Micah Covert added.

The district has been working on an SRO contract, the first in the county, since last fall, first with the Nelsonville City Police Department and later with the sheriff’s office. The district and the sheriff’s office came to agreement by mid summer and in July selected Duane Covert as the officer for the job. The only piece that remained was signatures from the Athens County Commissioners.

When presented with the contract, the commissioners raised concern over some of the costs imposed on the county. Commissioner Charlie Adkins, who said he supports the district’s efforts to secure an SRO, attended Wednesday’s school board meeting to further explain his position.

“There were costs going to be put on the county,” Adkins said, adding that if the county subsidized an SRO for Nelsonville-York, the county would have to do the same for the other four school districts.

“If we’re going to do it for one, we’d have to do it for all,” Adkins said. “We just don’t have the funds for that.”

To remedy that, Adkins requested a portion of the Ohio Revised Code be added to the contract. The portion stated that the sheriff’s office could contract with another party (in this case, with the school district) but that all costs would be imposed on the district.

McClelland said other new language added in the latest iteration of the contract “kept get further and further” from the district’s original goals. The latest contract had more specific language about what the SRO would be doing while at the school, including increased time spent in the classroom.

Board member Tim Maiden said he hopes future arrangements can learn from the situation and that the commissioners will get involved sooner.

“We got right where we were ready to start the school year when this all came up at the county,” Maiden said. “That threw us through a loop. If that was going to be the case, then the commissioners should have got involved earlier on. I’m no so much placing blame, but the next time, hopefully everyone gets involved with the process earlier.”

Duane Covert, who briefly volunteered pending the finalization of the contract, has since stopped coming to the school.