Dozens of parents at Neuse Charter School have signed an online petition to keep the school’s resource officer on staff for next school year.
Officer Erik Wilson’s contract expires June 30, along with the state grant dollars that cover half of his pay. Parents are concerned the school plans to replace Wilson with another resource officer or hire a security guard in an effort to save money.
Kathleen Stark said she created the petition on Change.org after a person close to the matter told her Wilson was out one way or the other. School administrators deny that to be the case.
Sharon Johnson, principal of the elementary school, said she appreciates the parents’ concern but thinks they have misunderstood the situation.
“I’m happy that they want officer Wilson to be back, and we have no problem with that,” Johnson said. “We definitely want an SRO officer; it’s just a matter of grant funding.”
Wilson began serving at Neuse Charter in October 2013, when the Smithfield Police Department created the position, according to public documents. His duties are many and include monitoring admittance, dismissal and other major movements of students; acting as a liaison for the department; attending meetings; and, of course, providing security.
The N.C. Department of Public Safety offers grant dollars that fund half of a school resource officer’s salary, and those grants come up for renewal every two years. Neuse Charter faces its first renewal this year, Johnson said, and the school hopes to win grant funding for another two years.
Whether Wilson would continue to serve at Neuse Charter would be up to the school’s executive director and Smithfield’s police chief, Johnson said.
For the parents who signed the petition, Wilson is irreplaceable.
The Stark family drives from Clayton to Smithfield each day to take their two kids to Neuse Charter, and Stark said Wilson helps make commuting to the school worth the trip. The children have learned a lot from Wilson and have come to trust him, Stark said, and any newcomer would have to start from scratch to build a relationship with students.
“Everybody loves him, and nobody wants to see him go,” she said.
Several other parents who signed the petition left comments showing their support for Wilson.
Having Wilson stationed at the school makes Brandie Davis of Selma feel safer, she wrote, and he has helped contribute to her daughter’s education.
“When (Wilson) came and spoke with her class, she said she learned things from him about being an officer that she hadn’t realized before,” Davis wrote. Neuse Charter School “needs strong security, and an officer like Mr. Wilson is truly an asset to the school.”
Rather than replace Wilson, Michael Higgs of Smithfield suggested the school consider trimming someone from its administrative ranks.
“Who’s great idea was it to replace him? That’s who needs to be replaced,” he wrote.