To begin with, let’s agree that we all want our schools to be safe for our students and staff. So, are our schools safe now? Yes they are, according to Superintendent Dr. Bradley Snyder and Associate Superintendent Dr. Louis Jensen, as they stated at the Prosser town hall held on Jan. 22, 2020. If they are safe now, then why do they need to be made safer, and why do we need $ millions more to do so? Unless they’re withholding information, we have not had an actual or perceived threat that has not been promptly handled through the measures we already have in place. So, in the administration’s opinion, could we ever spend enough to make schools “safe enough”?
- In June 2020, Floyd County residents will be asked to vote on a school safety referendum in the amount of $25 million over 8 years, or $3.1 million annually. NAFCS intends to use 70 percent for mental health professionals and SRO’s (School Resource Officer) and 30 percent for physical building safety.
- With a Lilly Grant received in 2017, NAFCS employs 14 mental health therapists and eight behaviorists. This Lilly Grant does not expire until 2022. Why such a rush to ask for another large tax increase right now when there is sufficient time to see if this grant or similar funding is or will be available? Their haste to raise our taxes could also be very counterproductive because, if such grants or funding were to become available, we would most likely be denied because we taxpayers would already be footing the bill via their referendum.
- With this referendum, NAFCS intends to increase the above-mentioned mental health positions from the 22 now being paid from the Lilly Grant, to 35 plus eight other various mental health categories that are not currently employed. That’s 43 mental health professionals that would be paid salary plus benefits from the $3.1 million referendum, once the Lilly Grant ends in 2022. That’s an average of three mental health professionals for each of our 14 schools. Has our country’s health care system and family structure really broken down to the point where schools and taxpayers need to assume that responsibility? And do we now need to hire professionals to take over our role as parents? Whatever happened to sending our kids to school to learn to read and write and to think?
Some of our students could probably benefit from interacting with a counselor, which is why we already have them. But just how many of our children does the administration think need mental or emotional help? And what about the possible stigma of being singled out, along with the potential teasing/bullying by their peers? And in this age of living in a digital fishbowl, how much privacy is realistically guaranteed? What about the kids with problems that are not readily apparent, or who do something drastic without warning? Is the solution to spend tons of money and hope it solves everything?
- Currently NAFCS employs six SROs (who are paid from the Operational Fund). If the referendum should pass, that number would increase to nine. The preference should be for more SROs instead of so many additional mental health employees. A school as large as New Albany High School or Floyd Central High School should have at least two SROs. If anyone should decide to create an incident at a school and my child were there, I would prefer an SRO to respond as quickly as possible.
It is unfortunate that Superintendent Snyder schedules the specifics of the Referendum for the last of his three-part informational series. This means that the last thing we will be provided with is what should have been the first, i.e., what it is we are voting on.
- Information is available on the NAFCS website.
Carol Lamb, Floyds Knobs