For the last three years, the City of Park Hills has been contracting with Covington Catholic High School to provide a school resource officer from the city’s police department. That officer is Ted Edgington.
The contract stipulates that Covington Catholic pay the salary and benefits, and the city pay for his training, car, and uniforms. The contract for last year set the salary and benefits at $40,266, and the new contract will be for $56,186.
“This is for the salary and benefits we discussed,” Park Hills Mayor Kathy Zembrodt said, referring to the negotiations with Covington Catholic. “If the diocese wants to contribute to the effort, that is between them and Covington Catholic. The amount in the contract is what we agreed to as salary and benefits for the SRO.”
At its regular meeting last week, Park Hills City Council approved entering into a memorandum of understanding with Covington Catholic for this school year. Mayor Zembrodt asked Police Chief Cody Stanley to reiterate the terms of the contract to council.
“I had an email from the diocese and they’re going to pay so much of the salary and some benefits,” Stanley said. “We are providing a car, training expenses and uniforms.”
He went on to explain that the training is a week that is done every year in the summer, so it has already been completed for this year. Stanley said the uniforms are negligible in terms of cost because they are printed polo shirts.
Councilman Kevin Downes asked at the meeting about the car that the SRO will use.
Stanley said the diocese is paying for the SRO to be the resource officer for all the Catholic schools in the diocese. That would mean some schools in Campbell County, as well as schools in Boone County and in Kenton County.
Downes asked if he was going to keep track of the mileage. Stanley said he wasn’t planning on it.
“I would be surprised if he puts more than 500 miles a year on it,” Stanley said. “What we are covering is miniscule in the grand scheme of things. Besides, Officer Edgington tends to use his own car. We just assign him one of our older cars.”
He assured Downes that if it became an issue he would address it.
Downes said he didn’t think it was ‘nothing’ but commented that the contract has been signed.
Zembrodt said that it was her understanding that the diocese wants officer Edgington to go around to other Catholic schools once or twice a year make sure they have a plan in place and are prepared in case they should have an incident.
“We do want Officer Edgington to go around to our schools at least one time and do a site assessment to make sure the safety protocols are up to date and being observed,” said Kendra McGuire, superintendent of schools at the Diocese of Covington. “He will also be a point of contact so that if schools have a question about anything, they can reach out to him. Already it has been fantastic. He has contacted other officers where the schools are located, and some areas have an adopt-a-cop program where the officer makes visits to the schools. Presence is very important, and building relationships is important as well.”
The diocese has 37 schools, 9 high schools and 28 elementary schools. Two of the schools are in more eastern counties with one in Mason County and one in Harrison County. McGuire said although Edgington will be stationed at Covington Catholic, the diocese wants all their schools to be as prepared as possible.
“I am very grateful to Chief Cody Stanley for allowing Officer Edgington to have more flexibility to be able to cover all of our schools,” McGuire said. “If we had to put an officer in every one of our schools, the cost would have been prohibitive. This will have a tremendous impact for safety and we will want to continue it.”
Following legislation adopted earlier this year by the state legislature, all public schools are required to have a school resource officer on campus. The law does not apply to private schools like those in the diocese.
Park Hills doesn’t have any public schools in its city limits, but is home to two Catholic high schools.
“The diocese is just paying for protection for their schools,” Zembrodt said. “But the bottom line is, the contract is a contract. It has no God in it, there are no Bible words in it. If someone is climbing around on the roof of a school in our city getting ready to attack, who will respond? We will, of course. It is our duty to protect people in our city.”
Councilmember Pam Spoor said she was pleased with the decision.
“I am really proud that Park Hills has stepped up, and we’re keeping our kids safe,” she stated.
Edgington was a police officer in Covington for 20 years, and then spent two years as an SRO at Woodland Middle School in Taylor Mill.
“From the time I started being an SRO, I knew that this is what I want to do,” Edgington said. “I love my job, I sure do. These kids are a good generation to be around.”
He said he thinks Kendra McGuire is a fantastic superintendent who is searching for a way to make her schools safer.
“I have been to about ten of schools so far and have done a site assessment on six of them,” he said. “My plan is to visit each school at least one time, and I can do programs, such as the gatekeeper presentation, to help the people who answer the door know what to do and what not to do, as well as other programs.”
He said he has known Chief Stanley all of his life and is glad that the chief is allowing him the leeway to be able to touch base with all the schools in the diocese.
“We are all on board with this,” he said. “Everyone is doing the best we can.”