Federal funds benefit Bertie County Schools

Published 5:15 pm Friday, November 4, 2022

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WINDSOR – Officials here with Bertie County Public Schools are welcoming nearly a half-million dollars in federal funds that will be used to improve the level of security at each of the system’s campuses and to assist law enforcement officers with training to reduce the level of school violence.

On Tuesday of this week, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) announced the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) is awarding a $2.6 million grant to improve security at schools and on school grounds in six North Carolina school districts. Funds from the SVPP grant were made available through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, legislation that Senator Tillis helped craft and pass into law.

The Bertie County Board of Education was awarded $490,417.

According to the specifications of the grant, the funds will be used for coordination with local law enforcement, training for local law enforcement officers to prevent school violence against others and self, metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other deterrent measures, technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency, and/or any other measure that may provide a significant improvement in security.

Dr. Otis Smallwood, Superintendent of Bertie County Public Schools, told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that the “Build Bertie Better” project will not only provide physical security enhancements such as surveillance cameras, door access control, and training, but also consider the need to upgrade physical security while maintaining a positive learning environment.

In addition, the security system provides another layer of safety protection by allowing local law enforcement officials to remotely log into the system if the need ever arises.

“The ‘Build Bertie Better’ project’s main goal is to improve security at schools and on school grounds through evidence-based school safety programs and by helping students and teachers recognize, respond quickly to and help prevent acts of violence and ensure a positive school climate,” Dr. Smallwood stated.

Tarsha Dudley, chair of the Bertie Board of Education, spoke on behalf of her elected colleagues in addressing the impact of this grant.

“The safety of the students and staff of Bertie County Public Schools is a very important issue for the members of the Bertie County Board of Education,” Dudley said. “With the ever changing dynamics of schools and the need to improve school safety, BCPS is greatly appreciative of the financial assistance given to us to provide a safe learning environment. We will use these funds appropriately and look forward to new and improved methods to provide a safe environment for all.”

The five other public school systems receiving the federal grant were Jackson County ($420,008), Person County ($461,138), Rockingham County ($495,843), Stanly County ($333,654), and Wilson County ($411,261).

“It is crucial that our children and faculty feel safe and secure at school,” said Senator Tillis in a press release. “Many of our schools need updated security measures including metal detectors, locks, and improved technology. This grant is a big win for North Carolina schools and I was proud to help negotiate and support this bipartisan legislation to bring this investment to our great state.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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