MADISON, Ala. - Madison City Schools has a plan to make students more secure, but they will turn to the community to get it done.
Superintendent Robby Parker said they need to move fast: "I don't think we can wait," he commented at a Thursday board of education meeting.
Parker proposed adding 6 Madison Police School Resource Officers and an additional few mental health counselors in order to cover what he calls "gaps in coverage." Parker has said for months he wants to see a school resource officer in every school, with two in each high school.
"If something bad happened, we want trained professionals in our schools," he explained.
But to instate his plan, the district would need to pay those personnel. The cost: $755,500.00. Parker said that's the equivalent of 10 teaching units. The problem, he outlined, is that the district doesn't have money to pay for those officers and counselors.
"It's not funded by the state," he said. "They fund us for teachers, they fund us for principals, they fund us for counselors. But they don't fund us for SRO's or mental health counselors. For us to do it, we have to take money out of the teacher fund. That's the best way to say it," he commented.
The second part of Parker's plan is turning to the community for help.
Thursday, the board of education voted to create the Madison City Schools Safety and Security Fund. It is a fundraising portal, to go live sometime Friday, to collect donations to cover the cost of the SRO's and mental health counselors the district needs.
Parker said regardless of whether the district is able to raise the funds, the additional personnel will be present at the start of school next year.
"If we don't raise this money, we will have 10 less teachers throughout our district. That's not what we want to do. I'm confident we are going to find this money," said Parker. "We're going to the community, we are going to businesses, we are doing whatever we need to do to make sure these are in place."
The portal will go live Friday, said district leaders, and you can get to it from the Madison City Schools website.
"People have asked, 'How can we help?' This is something any person can do," commented Ranae Bartlett, board president. "No donation is too small. I can't wait for it to go live, because I want to be the first one to donate! I'm really proud."
Board member Luis Javier Ferrer said, "Now, it's up to the community to make it happen."
Parker said this may seem dramatic, but he isn't above asking for help like this when it comes to protecting kids.
"We can't wait for somebody to rescue us. We can't wait for the Legislature to save us. We can't wait for a big pot of money to come in," he urged. "I'll beg, borrow, do anything in my power as a superintendent to take care of our children."
Parker told the board that a group will be monitoring the fund, and it will be used only for the personnel the district needs. If they are able to collect more money than they asked for, he said they will decide what to do with the remaining funds as long as they are used for safety or security around the district. The fund will be tax deductible and available for anyone to access to donate.
"We believe that our community will do whatever it takes to hire these people to make sure that our children are safe in our schools," he added.
Parker said this is only the beginning of the changes the district needs to make in terms of safety, but this is the first step he wants to take. He said later, he hopes the district will be able to employ a safety expert to be in charge of district security. He also wants to form a committee on safety, including the city's police chief and some parents.