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Mayfield Schools have plans for armed police officers in each building, every school day

June 28, 2018 GMT

Mayfield Schools have plans for armed police officers in each building, every school day

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ohio -- City Council on Tuesday (June 26) heard the first reading of Mayfield Schools’ initiative to place an armed, full-time police officer in each of the district’s public schools throughout every school day.

The idea has the backing of Highland Heights Police Chief James Cook and most of council, as well as mayors from other communities within the school district.

Plans call for each community in the district -- Highland Heights, Mayfield Heights, Mayfield and Gates Mills -- to contribute about $60,000 per school within their community to help pay for the officers. A full-time police officer, with benefits, costs a community about $120,000 per year.

The Mayfield Board of Education has allocated money to pay for the remainder of all the school resource officers’ salaries and benefits.

“I, personally, highly recommend it,” Cook told council Tuesday. “In the first 26 weeks of the year, we’ve had 23 school shootings (nationally). It (having an armed officer in a school) is a proven deterrent.”

Cook said his department already has stationed officers at various times in the city’s lone public school, Millridge Elementary, 962 Millridge Road.

Cook said he will not have to hire an additional officer to staff Millridge full-time. He said that the department currently has an opening for an officer and has budgeted for that new officer.

When school is not in session, the officer will work full-time for the city.

“I don’t see a negative at all,” said Councilwoman Lisa Stickan. “You’re (Cook) within your rights to assign an officer there.”

“I completely agree with your recommendation,” Council President Chuck Brunello told Cook, adding that he has a child attending Millridge.

After the meeting, Councilman Robert Mastrangelo stated: “I don’t like the idea of having an armed officer in a school. I think there are other things that can be done to improve security with that money.”

Councilwoman Cathy Murphy asked Cook about the private St. Paschal School in Highland Heights. Cook said that the police department now monitors its video  cameras at St. Paschal, and that officers regularly stop at the school throughout school days. These methods, he said, would continue.

“The school board has appropriated $250,000 to $300,000 for this,” Cook said. “It’s a pretty aggressive move and I compliment them for it.”

Mayfield Schools Board of Education member Jimmy Teresi said the idea, which came about in February or March, was a collaborative one between the board and Superintendent Keith Kelly.

“We’re not looking to shove anything down anyone’s throat,” Teresi said of the cost to communities. “These are terrible times with these shootings happening around the country, and we’re just looking to protect our kids. I think parents should be thrilled that we’re doing this.”

Mayfield Heights Mayor Anthony DiCicco said that his city already has armed,  retired police officers working part-time in his city’s two schools, Lander Elementary and Mayfield Middle School. He said that the officer at Mayfield Middle School is retiring and will not return next school year. Plans are to retain the Lander officer on a full-time basis and to hire a new officer, which the city was planning to do in order to fill a current vacancy.

“I think it’s a great partnership between the city and school district,” DiCicco said. “Anytime we can increase security presence at the schools, it’s a good thing.”

DiCicco said that it is also beneficial that, because the officers will be at the schools full-time, students will build positive relationships with them.

Speaking about the program, DiCicco said, “I have no reservations at all.”

“Mayfield Village recognizes the paramount importance of the safety of our children, as well as of the faculty and staff of our schools,” Mayfield Mayor Brenda Bodnar wrote in an email to cleveland.com.

“We have provided a full-time school resource officer at Mayfield High School since 1999. Now, we are partnering with Mayfield Schools to provide a full-time officer both at Mayfield High School and Center Elementary School,” she said.

The officer who works at the high school is a full-time Mayfield police officer and is armed.

Bodnar said the village will be hiring another full-time time officer to provide for the needs at Center Elementary. She said that Village Council will be asked to vote on a memorandum of understanding with the schools in July.

At the Highland Heights council meeting Tuesday, two parents spoke in favor of the idea. One of those parents was Ryan McCandlish, of Highland Heights, who has one child attending Millridge Elementary.

“I’ll feel good knowing it’s a full-time Highland Heights officer at the school,” he said. “Having a full-time officer there is a piece-of-mind thing for us. To question it doesn’t make sense to me.”

Highland Heights council plans to have a more extensive discussion about the subject at a Committee-of-the-Whole meeting scheduled for July 10.