Alice school board to later discuss Crime Stoppers program

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

For the first time, both Alice High School and William Adams Middle School will have law enforcement officers stationed at those campus starting this fall, after five members of the Alice ISD School Board voted in favor of the COPS In Schools Program conducted by the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department.

Board President R. David Guerrero abstained from voting.

Sheriff Oscar Lopez submitted a proposal this week to the school district, outlining an agreement to supply deputies, one at each campus, and provide vehicle support.

According to the agreement, the cost for the first year to the district would be $65,670 for the two deputies. This amount includes their salaries, which would be $26,000 each and $4,000 in equipment costs per officer. There is also a cost of $5,670 to the department, to pay as a contribution to the COPS In Schools Supervisor Lt. Cosme Castillo.

The agreement differs from other county agreements with Orange Grove ISD and Ben Bolt Palito Blanco ISD. Both districts pay a percentage of the overall cost for their officers, and the sheriff's department pays the remainder out of COPS In Schools grant funding.

Since the agreement is beginning in the middle of grant season, the funding isn't available in the form of grants at this time, so the district will have to fund the entire sum of the officers' salaries to initiate the program.

Board member Lee Ramon said there would be grants available in the future, once a new grant year starts in January.

Although the district will fund the salaries of the two officers, the county will supply insurance and all requisite benefits.

Also, the officers will still be considered county deputies, and county employees, although the district will pay their salary.

For purposes of insurance or liability in case of accident, the responsibility would fall with the sheriff's department and not with the school district, superintendent Henry Herrera said.

The district currently has two security officers, one for daytime duties and one at night. They are currently looking to hire two more additional security officers, to supplement security forces at both campuses. Herrera explained the importance of continuing to use security guards at both campuses.

"I think we need to keep them," Herrera said. "Our security guards are more like paraprofessionals."

Herrera explained that when a classroom calls for security to pick up a student for a behavior issue, it would be the security guard's job to escort that student from the classroom to the office, not the deputies.

"That's not their role," Herrera said. "Their job is to act and make an arrest when they are aware of an illegal activity taking place."

Herrera spoke also to Alice Police Chief Daniel Bueno and Alice City Manager Albert Uresti concerning a police proposal for the service, but both expressed some concern over making a decision on the proposal without first going to the city council and having a proposal approved.

"There was no reluctance on their (APD) part. It was just a matter of timing," Herrera said.

Guerrero's decision to abstain came from concerns he had as to the amount requested for the officers the first year. Although he had a problem with the $65,670 price tag, he was still in support of having law enforcement officers on campus and said he still wants the board to look into a grant for the program in the future.

The agreement will have to be approved by the JWC Commissioner's Court before the program can begin, Herrera said.

Along with Tuesday's law enforcement decision, board members stated they would consider adding the Crime Stoppers program to the district at the next regularly scheduled board meeting.