On Aug. 9, four members of the newly formed group, Northern Progressives, attended the regular meeting of the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners in Hibbing. After two and a half hours, it was announced that the Commissioners would recess and reconvene for a meeting of the “Committee of the Whole”, during which time they would discuss and vote on whether to fund two full-time St. Louis County Sheriffs to be stationed at the North Woods and South Ridge schools. I was stunned as I had only heard of this proposal the day before. The commissioners appeared mostly short on details and acting on the presumption that the community had already been “vetted” on this issue by the 2142 School Board and supported the proposal. Three of us chose to speak, offering our personal insights on the issue as well as some important information gleaned from other school districts that had experimented with a similar approach.
We learned that 2142 is looking at a three-year contract, fully funded by the Sheriff’s Department which would then be in charge of laying out the qualifications, duties and job descriptions of the officers, and overseeing their hiring and supervision with no clear idea of how much, if any, involvement our school district would have in that process. The report implied that their roles would consist of one-third law enforcement, one-third education, and one-third social services. Commissioner Rukavina took issue with the fact that police officers are not trained to be educators, councilors or social workers and yet this proposal would expect them to act in those capacities. Despite a motion supported by two that action should be postponed until the September meeting to allow the commissioners to gather more information and the community be able to weigh in with District 2142 officials, the commissioners decided to vote on the matter later that afternoon when they reconvened for their regular meeting.
The message we left with was loud and clear. We, the communities affected by this decision, should take our concerns to our School Board. If our School Board removed its request for these sheriffs to be placed in our schools, then the commissioners would dismiss the proposal.
Therefore, we are asking anyone in the community who is curious or concerned about this issue to please attend the 2142 School Board meeting this Monday, Aug. 15 at 5 p.m. at the St. Louis County Schools main office at 1701 9th Ave. N., in Virginia. Upon arriving, be sure to sign in to speak, even if you are unsure, in case you have questions or concerns during the meeting.
Your attendance is vital. Otherwise, we risk our children becoming part of a three-year experiment, implemented without adequate community discussion, without control over who is hired to serve in these positions, without clearly defined goals, guided by a job description lacking input from educators and child development experts. The School Board will likely move forward with this plan on Monday, as poorly advised as our County Commissioners were on Tuesday – that is, unless the community shows up to question, discuss, and assert our need to share the reins. We mustn’t forget, it’s about our children.