Originally Published: August 8, 2018 8:58 p.m.
On the first day of school, Prescott Police Department Officer David Holmes was standing in the middle of the crosswalk just beyond the entrance to Prescott High School to greet folks and make sure everybody was headed to the place where they needed to go.
His presence was a welcome one to Prescott Unified School District leaders, not for the traffic duty, but the fact that he will be a constant presence on the campus throughout the school year — a connection for students, staff and the community that leaders say is a key position. School and police leaders concur that school resource officers are not a novelty, but an integral part of building relationships with the law enforcement community that enable students, staff and the community to feel secure in this setting.
In the last couple years, though, PUSD and the police department have wrestled with how to afford the school resource officer program given financial constraints within the district and the city.
For about 15 years, the city bore the cost of the school resource officer program. But city needs two years ago dictated that those costs could no longer be budgeted without a district contribution. The district also did not have the funds, and there was a fear the program would be lost altogether.
An anonymous donation last year enabled PUSD to offer a hybrid, but it was not the ideal situation as officers rotated in and out of the school. The consistency of one officer posted at the high school throughout the school year was what the district and police department deemed most desirable.
On Tuesday night, the PUSD Governing Board voted in favor of an agreement between the city and the district that specifies the district will pay 75 percent of the cost of the school resource officer — salary and benefits are estimated at about $85,000 — and the police department will cover the other 25 percent. Holmes will be assigned to the district throughout the school year, and will be assigned to patrol duties during holidays and the summer months.
In addition to the school resource officer, one officer for one school, the city, too, is initiating a new school liaison program whereby officers make visits to all of the other schools in Prescott to help them with safety plans and to make connections with the police department for any other concerns.
Both District Superintendent Joe Howard and Prescott Police Department Deputy Chief Amy Bonney agreed the yearlong negotiations that resulted in the new school resource officer is one they see as a best practice.
“Our administration is thrilled with him,” Howard said of Holmes, who is already making an impact.
In other school business, the Governing Board was advised that Mile High Middle School is piloting a new Engage New York mathematics curriculum, one that will align with the program that last year was adopted for kindergarten through sixth grade students.
The selection of this online curriculum was rooted in academic rigor, transitions between lessons taught in the earlier grades and making certain the program aligns with what is expected to be learned for the AZ Merit test, explained Kelli Bradstreet, the district’s director of professional development.
Bradstreet explained the middle school math team spent the summer investigating three different curriculums before selecting this one as the one they believe best meets their objectives.
The AZ Merit scores in middle school math were quite low last year, and administrators and staff were seeking ways to address ways to enhance student understanding of the tested concepts. Part of the low scores, though, relate to the fact that middle school students with higher level math skills who take algebra and geometry do not take the AZ Merit tests but rather take subject area tests, Bradstreet said.
Engage New York is a proven math curriculum, and Bradstreet said it will be good for the district to now have a K-8 math program. The curriculum will be piloted for now, with the district to make it available for parent comment before coming back to the Governing Board for final approval to implement in all of the middle school math classes.
The Governing Board also Tuesday night accepted a $25,000 donation from the Prescott Area Young Professionals Party in the Pines event. These dollars will be contributed to the district’s Education for distribution to classroom teachers.
Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.