Photo: GES faculty dress up to welcome students August 11. Officer Heath Yates (back row, far left) joins them. (Courtesy of GES Principal Laura Sims)
By Emma Kirkemier, News Editor
Glencoe Elementary School received its own school resource officer for the 2022–2023 school year in early August.
The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office announced the good news, including the private sector funding from Tameron Honda that made it possible, on July 28.
GES is located about a mile from Glencoe’s middle and high schools, which have a designated SRO between them.
One SRO, Deputy Craig Tyler, serves that campus as a whole because the middle and high school buildings are “right next door to each other” and share a lunchroom, according to Etowah County Schools Superintendent Dr. Alan Cosby.
Glencoe Elementary did not previously have an officer, rather sharing with the middle and high school campus, but GES Principal Laura Sims said the elementary school’s separate campus led administrators to “realize there was a need” for another officer.
“I believe that us having a school resource officer stationed here with us at our school will provide some reassurance for our parents,” she said. “I know that that will make them feel safer for their children to be here. Although we do have many safety precautions already, that just enhances that for us.”
Sims added that she “remembers a day and time that was something that we never even thought we would have,” but recognizes that more enhanced safety protocol is essential in schools today.
Deputy Heath Yates took the new position, moving to GES from his current appointment as SRO at Sardis High School. He will be replaced at Sardis by Deputy Harley Westmoreland.
Yates started at Glencoe on August 8, about a week before classes started, according to Sims. His start date immediately followed a training held the previous week for Etowah County SROs, which consisted of firearm, medical and various tactical exercises.
“Officer Yates did a phenomenal job while he was stationed at Sardis,” Sims said. “He did have some time at Whitesboro Elementary [previously], so he is familiar with younger students. Also, he is familiar with our Glencoe community. He is an active member of one of the churches here, so we’re very thankful that he already has developed some relationships and will have the opportunity to develop more with our kids.”
According to a sheriff’s office press release, Yates’ job will be funded for the first five years “through a partnership with Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, Etowah County Board of Education and Danny Braden, owner of Tameron Honda,” with each party paying a third of the salary.
“I want to publicly thank the owner of Tameron Honda, who stepped up and called and said, ‘Hey, I want to pay a third of an SRO officer to a nearby school,’” said Etowah County District 1 Commissioner Joey Statum. “We got with the sheriff, and we felt like Glencoe was in the best proximity. It’s on the same highway. We felt like that was best, and there was a need there as well. So Mr. Braden, thank you.”
Sheriff Jonathon Horton called Braden’s commitment “a great example of (private) community partners investing in the community.”
The private contribution allowed the SRO position to be added “without any additional cost,” Cosby explained, where usually SROs are paid with county funding through the board of education, the sheriff’s office and the county commission.
“It’s just a very good use of resources,” he said.
Though both Glencoe SROs are staffed by the sheriff’s office, Sims recognized the city police department for its contributions to school safety as well. Glencoe city officers frequently assist the school with car-line traffic control, among other things.
“We work together in many ways, and I definitely want to thank our City of Glencoe and their police chief, Kenon McKenzie, as well as the many officers because they dedicated their time to help serve us,” Sims said.
Sims and Cosby both pointed out that the new position, as well as the SRO program at large, was a product of collaboration between city, county and private sectors.
“I will say this, our SRO program with the sheriff’s department and the cooperation of all of our municipalities, I think that you won’t find any school system around that’s as well-covered on SROs as what we are in Etowah County,” Cosby said. “It’s been a collective effort from the sheriff’s office, the county commission, board of education and the local municipalities to make that happen.”
Cosby echoed Sims’ sentiments that while students are their priority, parent and community concerns are an essential part of school safety and of the education system.
“The school system touches everything in a community,” he said. “It’s my belief that a school system has got to be the best it can be to touch all areas of the community so that we can provide the best education possible, the best educational experience possible.”