High schools asked to consider alternative safety measures, as schools could receive funds if police officers removed; LSCs expected to vote in June on the matter
by BRIAN NADIG
The Taft High School Local School Council will be voting next month on whether to retain all, some or none of its four school resource officer positions for its varsity and freshman campuses as part of a systemwide initiative asking high schools to consider alternatives to having police officers on their campuses.
It was reported at the council’s May 11 meeting that by the end of this month high schools must complete a draft of a safety plan that can consider alternatives to police officers and that LSCs are being asked to vote in June on their plans, including whether to have SROs.
Last year the Taft LSC voted unanimously to retain its SROs (two on each campus), but that decision was only in regards to the current school year. (The school system announced last month that SROs would not be used this spring due to the reduced in-person attendance during the pandemic.)
Taft LSC Safety and Security Committee chairwoman Maria McDorman said that the council will have to decide on how many of the school’s four SRO positions it would like to retain and that the school would be eligible to receive funds if some of those positions were eliminated.
Some members recommended that those funds be used to hire a social worker.
Taft principal Mark Grishaber said that is not clear if the funds could be spent on a social worker but that he plans to hire one additional social worker even if a different allotment of funds has to be used. Currently Taft has two full-time social workers and one part-time worker.
Taft director of climate and culture Kat Hindmand said that Taft could receive $50,000 for an SRO position which it does not retain, with a maximum of $100,000. Most high schools are eligible for two SROs, but Taft has four due to its two campuses.
Last year the majority of high school councils voted to retain SROs, with many of the LSCs expressing concern that they would not be receiving additional resources or funds — unlike for the 2021-22 school year — if the the officers were not retained.
Grishaber has said that Taft’s officers have done a good job of interacting with students in a positive manner.
Supporters of police-free schools argue that Black and Brown students in particular don’t feel safe with police officers in their schools.
Also at the meeting, the LSC approved the school’s approximate $27 million budget for 2021-22. It represents an increase of about $2.5 million from this school year in part to cover the hiring of 14 additional teachers, as the school’s enrollment is projected to increase form 3,950 tp 4,225. Taft has about 340 employees, including about 225 teachers.
It also was reported that the school is working on a plan to have Chromebook carts in every classroom and that Taft was once again named one of the nation’s “best” high schools by U.S. News and World Report. “It’s not a fluke for us anymore. It’s a three-peat,” Grishaber said.
The LSC also approved a budget transfer of $12,583.90 for the purchase of new marching band uniforms.
The next Taft LSC meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 8.