South Orange leaders plan to apply for grant money to bring a dedicated police officer to South Orange Middle School, and Maplewood leaders plan to do the same for Maplewood Middle School and Columbia High School.
In a statement read aloud at the Monday, June 15 South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education meeting, South Orange Village President Sheena Collum announced that the Township of South Orange is applying for funding for an officer through the federal COPS in Schools (CIS) program.
In an email exchange with Village Green, Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca confirmed that Maplewood also planned to apply. “We will be discussing [this] Tuesday night,” wrote DeLuca, who will meet with fellow Township Committee members on June 16. “As we discussed at the Public Safety Committee meeting, we will recommend applying for two officers through the COPS grant program. One of the officers will be for the high school [which is located in Maplewood] and the other for the middle school.” DeLuca expressed confidence that the TC would approve the submission of the grant request.
These announcements follow on events earlier this month when an MMS student and a CHS student were taken into custody for weapons possession with the MMS student having brought a loaded handgun to school.
The issue of school safety was addressed in an emotional but respectful, standing-room-only Town Hall meeting at Maplewood Middle School on June 8.
Here is Collum’s full statement:
On behalf of the South Orange Board of Trustees, I want to thank the South Orange/Maplewood Board of Education for hosting the town hall meeting on school safety on Monday, June 8.
Although we could not stay for the duration of the meeting, due to our previously scheduled Board of Trustees meeting the same night, our governing body, working with our Police Department, has had the opportunity to review and discuss the feedback that was provided from concerned parents and other stakeholders. My biggest takeaway from the forum was an expectation that we – meaning both municipalities in partnership with the school district – need to be more proactive in how we ensure a safe and positive climate in our schools, protect our children from guns and other threats of violence, and support students in times of crisis.
The purpose of this letter is to inform you that South Orange is applying for a grant under the COPS in Schools (CIS) program, which is designed to help law enforcement agencies hire new, additional school resource officers (SROs) to engage in community policing. CIS provides an incentive for law enforcement agencies to build collaborative partnerships with the school community and to use community policing efforts to combat school violence. The COPS in Schools program provides a significant federal contribution for approved salary and benefits with a required match to be paid with local funds. If we are successful with our grant application, South Orange is prepared to fund the required match in our municipal budget.
With a shared school district, it is equally important that Maplewood be a partner in this effort. I have spoken with Mayor Victor DeLuca who has, in turn, reviewed the COPS in Schools application with their Public Safety Committee and Maplewood Police Department and indicated that Maplewood will be pursuing this grant opportunity as well. It is our hope and expectation that as we move through this process, we collaborate not just amongst ourselves as elected officials and professionals but engage the community in meaningful ways to be active participants. We look forward to keeping you posted on the status of our application as well as building a stronger relationship with our School Board.