Dalton seeks safety, mental health levy
The Daily Record - 10/28/2018
DALTON — The Dalton school district is asking voters to support a 1.5-mill safety, security and mental health levy on the Nov. 6 ballot to support efforts in which the district is already making great strides.
This year two school resource officers are in place — Zach Ewing at the elementary and middle school and Matt Shilling at the high school.
The district also has made changes within the school buildings themselves, such as window lamination, key fobs and additional security cameras, to improve security.
Dalton Superintendent James Saxer quoted a high school student as saying to an officer, “I know this is Dalton, but I feel safer with you here.”
School resource officers are a proactive method of providing school safety through the power of their presence, visibility, shorter response time and building of trusting relationships with students, Saxer said.
“We want kids to know if they have an issue they can go to a police officer,” Saxer said. “I think our kids see that and are reassured by that.”
Mental health support is a significant priority in the district and is offered in part by a family support specialist and a clinical counselor, each working part time and paid for with grant money.
To keep these initiatives going, the district hopes to pass the levy, which, if approved, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $52.50 a year or just about “a dollar a week,” said Saxer. It would generate just under $260,000 annually.
At a recent open community forum to discuss the levy, the one person out of 25-30 attendees who spoke out against the proposed ballot issue, according to Saxer, said teachers should only have to teach, not take on other roles.
Attending the forum as panel members were Lisa Zona, the district’s student services director, Diane Merriman, the family support specialist; Ann Dennison, the clinical counselor; Ryan Pearson, the Dalton police chief; and Shilling and Ewing.
Saxer said Zona responded to the comment with her experience as a former teacher in Akron, where she asked her students why they were “falling apart” at 10 a.m. and unable to focus. They told her they were hungry, she said.
Along with supporting students with mental health issues, making sure they are fed and clothed are among the priorities being set by the district. For this, support staff are reaching out to connect families with community agencies to help them with food, clothing and other needs.
“When you meet the primary needs of a child, then (he or she) is ready to learn,” Saxer said.
“Right now, we’re paying for (safety, security and mental health measures) out of the general fund or grants,” he said, adding, in the short run, the general fund can take care of these issues, “but we can’t sustain” funding them without passing the levy.
Reporter Linda Hall can be reached at email@example.com or 330-264-1125, Ext. 2230. She is @lindahallTDR on Twitter.
CREDIT: LINDA HALL