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Contract okayed for school officers

By DONNA WINCHESTER, Times Staff Writer
Published January 9, 2008

School resource officer Dave Horner, in his first year at Lealman Intermediate School last year, tells tales of car chases and arrests from his 32 years as a street cop in St. Petersburg.
[Cherie Diez | Times (2007)]

The Pinellas School Board on Tuesday approved the last in a series of annual agreements that have been providing school resource officers to the district's middle and high schools since July.

Board members agreed to pay the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office just under $900,000 for 22 officers for the 2007-08 academic year. Additionally, they agreed to pay $40,871 each for another 14 officers to the cities of St. Petersburg, Largo and Gulfport.

Contracts with the county's other municipalities were approved at a prior board meeting.

Normally finalized long before this point in the school year, the contracts were delayed when cities, faced in the spring with the possibility of having to reduce their work force, said they wanted their available officers working streets and neighborhoods.

"It took a long time for the contracts to get before the board because it took a long time for each of the cities to get their agencies to adopt them," said Laurie Dart, staff attorney for the district. "It's been dragging on for a long time."

The cost for each officer has increased by about $3,000 since last year, Dart said, leaving the district no alternative but to place fewer of them in some schools. Only the high schools served by the Sheriff's Office have two school resource officers this year. The others, including four in St. Petersburg, depend on only one officer.

That frustrates board member Nancy Bostock.

"What this situation basically forces us to do is allocate them by jurisdiction," Bostock said. "If I were allocating school resource officers, I would do it according to the needs of the schools."

The new contract adds two changes. One affects the way school bus videos and surveillance recordings are categorized. Those documents will be considered law enforcement records as opposed to student records, which means school resource officers can make them immediately available to other law enforcement agencies without having to go through a subpoena process.

Additionally, school resource officers will be designated as school officials, and as such, will be privy to student records.

School Board attorney Jim Robinson said the change in the designation comes at the urging of federal officials and merely gives school resource officers permission to access data they already were obtaining in many cases.

"It's not done to give them a license to go fishing for information," Robinson said. "It makes them partners with school administration in a very real sense."

Board member Janet Clark said the change gave her pause at first.

"I looked at it and went, 'I don't like this,'" Clark said. "But unless there is somebody who actually goes out and gathers information and uses it in a way that's not appropriate, I don't have an issue with it."

In other business Tuesday, the board approved the charter application for Alfred Adler Elementary Charter School of Pinellas, modeled on the theories of psychologist Alfred Adler. The school's application states that it will "provide elementary students with a learning environment that contains early, constant, multisensory stimulation ... that concentrates on building strong social and interpersonal skills."

Learning Adventures Preschool of St. Petersburg, which operates out of Clearview United Methodist Church, will provide financial support and classroom space to the charter school.

Donna Winchester can be reached at or 727 893-8413.


Details of the contract

Cost of the contract approved Tuesday: $1.5-million.

Number of officers placed: 36.

Where the officers will be:

-Two Pinellas County Sheriff's Office officers each at Oak Park School and Bayside, Dixie Hollins, Dunedin, East Lake, Osceola, Palm Harbor University and Seminole high schools; one each at Dunedin Highland, Madeira Beach, Osceola, Palm Harbor, Pinellas Park and Seminole middle schools.

-One city of Largo officer each at Largo High and Largo Middle.

-One city of St. Petersburg officer each at St. Petersburg, Gibbs, Northeast and Lakewood high schools and Azalea, Bay Point, Tyrone, Meadowlawn, Riviera and John Hopkins middle schools. Southside Fundamental and Thurgood Marshall Fundamental middle schools share an officer.

-One city of Gulfport officer at Boca Ciega High.

[Last modified January 9, 2008, 00:57:10]

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