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Supervisors’ March 5 meeting: Safety of county students focus of discussion

Supervisors' March 5 campus security Assistant Union County Schools Superintendent Wendy Faulkner speaks to the Union County Board of Supervisors about campus security needs.

Safety of students and teachers in county schools was the main business discussed during the Union County Board of Supervisors’ March 5, meeting Monday morning.

Wendy Faulkner, Assistant Superintendent of the Union County School District, told the board that the 17 deaths in the recent Florida school shooting has again focused attention on the need to improve protection of the 2,935 students in the Union County School District (UCSD). The district operates four K-12 school campuses in four widely separated locations. Two of the campuses — East Union and Myrtle — are 21 miles apart.

Union County Deputy Sheriff Steve Garrison serves as the only School Resource Officer (SRO) for all four UCSD campuses. The principals of all four campuses appeared with Faulkner, and all commended Garrison’s dedication to school safety, including travel to out-of-county athletic events. However, Faulkner, the school principals, and Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards all agreed that there is no way a single officer can assure safety at all four campuses at the same time. There have been several instances this school year when guns were found on the school campus, although there have been no instances of active shooters at any of the county schools.

Sheriff Edwards said that there had previously been an SRO for each UCSD campus, but that funding for that level of protection came from a grant, which has expired. Edwards said his office wants to work with the school district and the Board of Supervisors to find funding to provide a full-time security officer at each campus.

Assistant Superintendent Faulkner said UCSD had already initiated a program intended to put armed personnel in each school. She said training is underway that is expected to result in at least three administrators at each campus being trained with firearms and qualified for the concealed carry of handguns. However, she and Edwards stressed their belief that a trained, commissioned law enforcement officer at each campus is necessary to provide better safety for students and teachers.

A member of the Board of Supervisors told Tuesday afternoon that, while no specific plan has been firmly established, board members agreed after the Monday meeting that they must work with the sheriff and school officials to find funding for a deputy sheriff as SRO at each campus. Possible funding from a grant is being explored to supplement local tax money to make that possible.

In other business, New Albany Attorney Joe Marshal Davis appeared before the board in his capacity as attorney for the Tallahatchie River Drainage District. Davis said a professional review of several dams of lakes on private property in the county has revealed a need to assure that the dams meet safety standards. He said the overflow or spillway systems of the private dams must be brought up to standards, or regulations will require that the lakes be drained. Davis said he was simply informing the board of the need. He said the drainage district will be working with land owners and others to clear brush and perform other work to assure the safety of the private dams.

The supervisors approved the purchase of 27-1/2 acres of additional land for the Martintown West Industrial Park and an option for an additional 119 acres.

The board conducted other routine business including paying the bills, approving minutes of prior meeting, approving fee payments earned by public officials, and approval of the road work schedule for March.

The board will meet again at 10 am on Monday, March 19th.

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