The Arlington school board last week voted 6-0 to approve recommendations from an advisory group for a pilot program to feed police, add a few jobs, raise salaries and start a wellness program as a part of its proposed 2014-15 budget.The police lunch pilot program, estimated to cost $57,525, will provide free lunch at any district campus for uniformed police officers. The plan is to create engagement between students and officers and provide an extra level of security, school officials said. “This is an opportunity to show that our police officers are there for us,” Trustee Aaron Reich said. “There’s a lot to be said for the officers that get to know the neighbors on their beats, and this is just an extension of that for our children.”Lunch will be provided for up to 100 officers a day at cafeterias across the district for the 2014-15 school year. The officers will eat $3 adult meals the kitchens serve. “I think they will flock to it because the Arlington Police Department knows that Arlington cafeteria food is the best in the land,” Reich joked. School officials say the Police Department has expressed interest.The district already has school resource officers assigned to junior high and high schools, but the pilot program will draw in other officers, said Cindy Powell, the district’s chief financial officer. “If they are coming to school and actually interacting with the students, they are providing a service,” Trustee Gloria Peña said.Salary increases, new jobsThe board voted on 2 percent salary increases for all employees and the institution of an employee wellness program that would offer $20 a month toward health insurance premiums for those who sign up. Board President Bowie Hogg was absent on a business trip. Trustees were acting on recommendations from the district’s Financial Futures Committee that administrators had revised a bit. The board will finalize the 2014-15 budget after a public hearing June 26.If all the proposals are approved as a part of the budget, the district will also spend $21,750 on $750 stipends to 29 professionals at non-Title I campuses to coordinate family engagement.Trustee Kecia Mays said the stipend is for a one-year pilot program to help not only with family engagement but also to provide consistency on curriculum-based activities that don’t fall into PTA functions.Mays served on the Financial Futures Committee before she was elected to the board on May 10. The district will also hire one advanced-academics specialist at a salary of $86,364, and a teacher to help coordinate scheduling for advanced academics at Seguin High School at a salary of $53,894.Trustees had already approved 10 recommendations from the committee for new jobs and programs for next year. Jessica Lavy, president of the Arlington chapter of the United Educators Association, said the association went to the Financial Futures Committee with three goals in mind: to re-establish employee benefits pay, promote employee raises across the board and create a program to provide officers lunches. She said the police lunch program has been a success at other school districts.“It’s to give the Arlington Police Department a positive image in the community and engage with kids. It’s so kids aren’t afraid and know [officers] are there to help, not hurt,” Lavy said.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792 Twitter:@MonicaNagyFWST