Is Wake County school board chairman Ron Margiotta now singing a different tune on the issue of reviewing the school resource officer program?
In an interview Wednesday on the Bill LuMaye Show on WPTF, Margiotta was effusive in this praise of the school resource officer program as being necessary now that society has changed. He said he's hoping Superintendent Tony Tata's review will not result in any change of the program.
"I have some serious concerns with the fact that we're even considering making any changes," Margiotta said. "That's my personal feeling."
LuMaye asked then why Tata was doing the review. Margiotta said it was because of "some outside groups that would like to see no resource officers in the schools. Or, if they'd like to see them in the schools, they would like to see them perform, in a bit of an exaggeration, but as nurses or nursemaids."
Margiotta said Wake County is "fortunate" that the municipal governments here "train their police department very well and have specialized training for the resource officers we use in the schools." SRO training is expected to be one of the things reviewed by Tata.
Margiotta praised how well SROs work with students, principals and teachers. He also praised towns, such as Holly Springs, for paying for school resource officers who aren't funded by the school system.
LuMaye, a fan of the SRO program, asked Margiotta how he thought the review would end up.
"Hopefully we will retain the resource officers in the positions that they're in, it's from my viewpoint now, in the positions that they're in, in the same manner that they're working," Margiotta said. "If any additional training might be required, fine.
However, as I pointed out earlier, I think my understanding of the training that these resource officers receive, the performance of the officers in the schools have never created any problems. There's a few groups out there that have been, as I said earlier, would like to see them removed all together."
Margiotta added that "I join those groups by saying I would like to see that we would not have a need for these resource officers in our schools. However it's quite evident the way our society has changed it is necessary and we do have them there and they've been performing extremely well."
Now let's look at what Margiotta said during the June 7 meeting in which the board agreed to conduct the review of the SRO program. The review came about after some board members questioned approving the 2011-12 contracts with Cary and Raleigh to provide school resource officers for the high schools.
"It is my opinion that our resource officers — the entire program — needs a good strong evaluation and I think that's something that should be undertaken," Margiotta said at the board meeting. "Whether or not we follow through on this, I think it might be a little late to not take action on these contracts, but I think our whole program requires a good evaluation by our staff."
Later in the meeting, Margiotta said that they could approve the contracts with Raleigh and Cary and still modify the memorandum of understanding that governs how SROs operate in school.
After Russ Smith, Wake's senior director of school security, explained that the municipalities provide about 80 percent of the cost for SROs with the school district coming up with the remaining 20 percent, Margiotta said it's why the entire program could use a good review.
(After today, I'm going on vacation for two weeks. I've got some blog posts to cover things until I return July 25.)
Margiotta said in an interview today that he still believes in the value of doing the review. But he said he wants to focus on the disparity in SRO staffing provided by the different law enforcement agencies. He said he'd also like to talk about having all the SROs from the various agencies report to one person, perhaps Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison.
Margiotta said he has no interest in removing SROs or disarming them.