SRO future in doubt?

Bill Clough photo Goliad Sheriff Kirby Brumby tells the Commissioners Court that negotiations about the school resource officer between the district and the county are stalled.

GOLIAD – If a budget conflict is not rectified between the county and the Goliad Independent School District, GISD might not have a school resource officer (SRO) this year.

Goliad Sheriff Kirby Brumby issued his warning during a Commissioners Court budget workshop Thursday.

“Negotiations are stalled,” Brumby said.

For the last two years, Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Krucenski has served as the district’s SRO under the auspices of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the county.

The MOU stipulated that GISD would pay 75 percent of the SRO’s salary, health insurance, workers compensation, sick leave and retirement. In addition, the sheriff’s office would supply a patrol vehicle, vehicle maintenance and insurance, as well as fuel.

The original MOU expired July 31, 2018. It has been carried over month by month pending agreement on a new MOU.

Negotiations for the new MOU began with a lunch meeting at the La Bahia restaurant Aug. 8 with GISD Superintendant Dave Plymale, GISD Board President Brandon Huber, Sheriff Capt. John Pape and Brumby.

Based on conversations at the lunch, Plymale wrote Brumby saying the district would prefer the new MOU to keep the 75-percent compensation.

On July 22, Plymale received a letter from the sheriff’s office containing the county’s demands for a new MOU. It called for GISD to pay 90 percent of the SRO’s salary – a 20-percent increase – justified in Pape’s letter because of “operational changes since (the) original agreement” and because of “a change in the county’s executive officer” (County Judge Mike Bennett). In addition, the school district now was expected to provide fuel, vehicle maintenance and repairs.

“I was blindsided,” Plymale says.

In an email to Brumby, Plymale rejected the 90 percent suggestion and also said the district would no longer reimburse the sheriff’s office for the SRO until the two organizations could reach an agreement.

During the commissioners court budget workshop, Bennett said the situation was basic. “This isn’t a foreign concept,” he said. “The sheriff has asked the school district simply to pay for what they use. They want to pay 75 percent of the SRO’s salary and they don’t want to pay for his vehicle but they want a vehicle over there.”

Brumby told Bennett that the school district “has gotten their attorney involved instead of our just working this out.” 

“They’re free to form their own police department any time they want to,” Bennett noted.

Plymale agrees, saying that move is just one of a number of options under GISD consideration.

Another option, Plymale says, is arming the teachers.

Precinct 1 County Commissioner Kenneth Edwards and Precinct 4 County Commissioner David Bruns – both sensing the situation could result in an impasse – agreed that the conflict had to be worked out, suggesting to Bennett that the salient point is the safety and protection of the district’s 1,350 student and its 220 staff members. 

Relations between GISD and the sheriff’s office is further exacerbated by GISD claiming that since the start of the SRO program in 2017, the sheriff office has over-billed the district for the SRO’s salary, demanding 100 percent instead of the agreed 75 percent.

The amount is more than $33,000. “That’s money that was earmarked for the teachers and students,” Plymale says.

Pape agrees, saying the error was the result of confusion during the county’s change of administration eight month ago.

Plymale says he has been exasperated by a lack of communication with Bennett; similar complaints have been voiced by both the city and the appraisal district.

“We are a small community and school district where we should work collaboratively in the best interest of children,” Plymale says.

“But this school district will not be bullied and pushed around by Judge Bennett as he attempted to do with the city and other entities and officials.”

Plymale says some aspect of school security will be on the agenda when the board meets Sept. 9. He hopes the issue will be resolved by then.

Bill Clough is the Goliad editor at the Advance-Guard Press and can be reached at 361-645-2330 or at goliadoffice@mysoutex.com.