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Lebanon Mulls 2nd School Cop

Lebanon — The city is looking to hire a second police officer to monitor the halls of Lebanon schools.

School Board Chair Jeff Peavey said yesterday that last December’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is the main reason the district is interested in adding an additional officer. Lebanon already has one school resource officer who spends 80 percent of his time at the high school as part of a program that has been in place since 2005, but adding another would allow for more patrolling of Lebanon Middle School.

“I think the middle school could use that same type of (program) ... to help students to reach out and have someone besides their teachers and principals to ask questions of,” Peavey said.

City Manager Greg Lewis announced at a joint meeting of the School Board and City Council last week that his administration has applied for a grant that would cover most of the salary for the additional school resource officer. The grant is through the U.S. Department of Justice.

At the meeting last Wednesday, Lewis asked the board for its support to hire a second police officer for the schools, and said the city had already filed for the grant. Lewis explained that he was notified by Lebanon Interim Police Chief Gary Smith about the opportunity, which he then discussed with SAU 88 Superintendent Gail Paludi before OKing the grant application quickly in order to meet the deadline.

“This had all kinds of serendipity to it,” Lewis said at the meeting.

The grant would cover the $125,000 salary costs for the first three years and the city would then be required to guarantee a fourth year at its own cost. Lewis said the fourth year cost would be split 50-50 between the school district and the city budget.

Describing the school resource officer’s impact on students and the community, Smith said, “As far as I’m concerned, it’s immeasurable.

“I think it’s an invaluable tool. I think it’s proven itself.”

Smith said that with school violence becoming more commonplace, “I don’t need to explain to anybody the need (for an additional school resource officer.)

“Things have gone on in the country that have demonstrated it can be a very useful thing, a very beneficial thing, to have somebody there in the school,” he said.

Paludi said at the meeting that Greg Parthum, the current school resource officer, “has been a positive presence in our schools and has been a tremendous support to our students, our faculty, and our administration.”

Parthum spends four days at the high school and one day at the middle school under the current program, but Paludi said an additional officer would allow for more coverage in all of Lebanon’s schools.

“We would love to be able to see a resource officer four days at the high school and other four days at the middle school, and then the fifth day each of the officers spend a day in our elementary schools,” she said.

The grant deadline is today , at which point police and city officials should know if they have secured the funding.

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.