A press release was handed out prior to the start of the Alleghany Highlands School Board’s regular meeting, Monday evening. The press release read, in part, that the “Alleghany Highlands Public Schools have returned to normal operations after a lockdown was initiated at Covington Middle School earlier today……School officials and law enforcement acted quickly after receiving reports of a CMS student with weapons. The student was quickly located and is now in custody of LE for further questioning.”
Chris Smith, Chief of the Covington Police Department, would later take to the podium to introduce newly hired Covington Police Officer, Michael Browning, as Jeter Watson’s Resource Officer. Browning served 31 years with the Virginia State Police, part of that time was spent working with the sexual offender registry. Smith believes that moving forward, Browning’s talent will enable him to develop his own way while continuing to provide JW students with service and safety.
Though, he was there to introduce the RSO, Smith said he would make a comment in reference “to what you are asking for.” Earlier, during Public Comments, Leslie Warlitner expressed some of her security concerns for CMS students and suggested some areas of improvement. Each Board Member and Superintendent Kim Halterman also referred to the incident by lauding the excellent responses from staff, students, and LE.
Smith said he “couldn’t really add anything to the earlier press release,” as it’s an ongoing investigation, involving a juvenile. He noted, however, that the CPD was able to respond very quickly and because of the consolidation of the schools, VSP, Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office, and Clifton Forge Police Department also responded. “We all have a vested interest; this is our community, and our students are going to these schools,” added Smith.
Jacob Wright, AHSB Chairman, said that Board Members received the press release like everyone else, during his public comments. He explained that some things happening at school are handled by the school staff, some by the central office, however, “due to the severity of the earlier incident, it will probably be brought before the board and we will have to look at how we can change and do things differently,” said Wright.
Other Board Members, along with Halterman, resolved to “revisit the incident and look at making improvement, going forward.
The Board approved a one-time bonus to express its appreciation for the school division employees. The bonus plan includes a bonus of $2,000 for classified and certified full-time employees and $1,000 for part-time employees. This one-time bonus of COVID-19 federal funding is to “recognize the hard work of employees through the lingering effects of the pandemic and their commitment to making the recent consolidation of schools work for the betterment of students,” according to an AHSB press release.
During Public Comments, John Moser suggested that the school board stream their meetings to the public so people could hear the entire meetings rather than relying on news bites, clips, and biased reporting. After Danielle Morgan acknowledged the full house in attendance, she, along with other Board Members, encouraged others to attend “these public meetings to hear things in full context.”
The Board unanimously approved several items, including $2,505,614; base bid of $2,318,809 plus $185,505 for contingencies for roof replacements at Alleghany High School and Jackson River Technical Center; a resolution designating Nov. 13-17 as American Education Week; and a field trip request for CMS Civics Classes to Washington, DC Nov. 20-21.
They also heard several information items/updates and administrative reports/recommendations before adjourning to closed session.
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