Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz will propose 106 additional positions for school counselors, social workers, psychologists, and Police School Resource Officers in his annual budget to be presented to the Baltimore County Council on Thursday, April 12.
Councilman David Marks and Baltimore County Public Schools Board Member Julie Henn have applauded the decision.
Also included in the budget are additional health assistants and bus attendants. This investment is geared to addressing the ever growing mental health needs of Baltimore County school students. The personnel additions further the significant $13.6 million of investments in school safety and security accelerated by Kamenetz after a 2012 shooting at a Baltimore County high school.
“In Baltimore County, our budgets continually reflect a commitment to ensure that our schools are healthy learning environments,” said Kamenetz. “Since 2011, we invested $13.6 million to reinforce all school doors and windows, adding security cameras and controlled entry. With this budget, we add necessary personnel to ensure that we are reaching the mental health needs of every child to avoid incidents of disruption.”
The County Executive’s budget that he will present to the County Council next week includes an increase of more than $8 million to fund an additional 109.5 positions in the area of student support personnel and to expand Baltimore County’s Police School Resource Officer program.
Kamenetz is proposing two School Climate Support Teams to address students with complex needs and to assist schools with conflict management strategies — one for elementary schools and one for high schools.
If adopted, the budget would add more than 22 social workers, 23 counselors, and 18 school psychologists to the Baltimore County Public Schools, while also funding additional pupil personnel workers, health assistants, and bus attendants.
“I am very appreciative that County Executive Kamenetz recognizes the important role that student service personnel play in creating a positive school climate, and that his budget proposal will fund these initiatives,” stated Interim School Superintendent Verletta White. “The best way to prevent disciplinary and disruptive issues in our schools is to recognize and address the important role that mental health plays in student safety.”
“I believe in being proactive,” said Council Chair Julian Jones. “Doing everything that we can to ensure our school system has the resources it needs to help our children before they are in trouble is the appropriate thing to do.”
“I was on the campus of Perry Hall High School in the aftermath of the shooting in 2012, and I have pushed for stronger public safety measures since that horrible day,” said Councilman Marks. “I commend the announcement that next year’s budget will increase funding for better school security. We need more School Resource Officers at large campuses like Perry Hall Middle and High Schools, broader technology, stronger discipline, and better communication with parents.”
”As a BCPS parent, I think about the safety of our schools each and every day,” said BCPS Board Member Henn. “One of my top priorities as a Board member has been to work with BCPS staff and the community to identify areas in which we can improve the safety of our schools and then to secure the resources to make it happen. I’m happy to learn of increased funding for more school security and look forward to learning more about the measures planned.”
The County Executive’s budget proposal will also include 19 additional Police School Resource Officers, increasing the County’s total from 65 officers to 84. With this proposal, one officer will be added to each of the County’s 10 police precincts and be assigned to work with the elementary schools in that area on school security issues. The additional 9 officers will be added to the current school allocation based upon review by Police Chief Sheridan and Superintendent White.
“School Resource Officers have proven to be a critical component in not only responding to incidents, but more importantly, to preventing incidents before they occur,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan. “If approved by the County Council, we will have these additional officers in place before the beginning of school in the fall.”
Since 2011, Baltimore County officials have invested $13.6 million to safeguard schools by installing security cameras and card reader door locks in all Baltimore County elementary schools and enhancing these security measures in middle and high schools. This funding initiative increased the number of school cameras by 400%, from 1,150 to 4,600; newly installing them in all elementary schools, and enhancing existing cameras and adding them as needed in middle and high schools. In the same timeframe, the number of card reader door locks in schools more than doubled from 261 to 583, providing an important measure of security for routine schooldays as well as in emergencies.
The County is now completing the installation of video dashboard technology that provides public safety officials with instant access to video feeds from security cameras at schools, libraries and other public facilities; as well giving them direct access to live traffic cameras on state highways. GPS systems are now installed in County school buses through a partnership between County government and Baltimore County Public Schools.
“The events of the past few months have moved us all. No community, no school, and no family is immune from the fear that takes place after every school shooting incident,” concluded Kamenetz. “As government officials we have no more important responsibility than to make sure we do all that we can to protect our students and our teachers each and every day.”