Montgomery County Public Schools plans to expand community engagement officer program

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At a school board meeting on school safety, Montgomery County Public School leaders announced a plan to expand the current Community Engagement Officer (CEO) program.

The PDG program was created after the Montgomery County Executive officially ended the School Resource Officer (SRO) program for this 2021-2022 school year.

Newly appointed MCPS Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight has promised a review of the current safety plan following the January shooting of a 15-year-old student inside Magruder High School.

It was the first time in county history that a student was shot inside the school, according to multiple county leaders.

MCPS Chief of Teaching, Learning and Schools Ruschelle Reuben announced some of MCPS’s proposals on Tuesday, saying equity is at the forefront of those proposals.

She also said the school system plans to take a holistic safety approach.

The proposals include that MCPS now provide CEOs with a “designated workspace at each high school,” but Reuben said that doesn’t mean the CEO will be permanently stationed at that school.

MCPS is also asking for more influence over the officers the Montgomery County Police Department selects to be part of the CEO program. School leaders want CEOs to participate in school initiatives like the DARE program.

The proposed changes would also give CEOs the ability to have more direct communication with schools.

RELATED: Montgomery County Police Chief Talks School Closures, Community Engagement Officers, and More

Uniformed police were removed from school buildings at the start of this school year. The program then transitioned from a state-defined SRO model to a PDG program where officers were assigned to cover clusters of schools. Officers were only allowed to enter a school building if called in an emergency.

Montgomery County Police Assistant. Chief Carmen Facciolo, who now leads the Community Engagement Officer Program, testified Tuesday that during the first half of this school year (August 31, 2021 – December 31, 2021), the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) county handled 1,688,911 calls for service.

About 93% of those calls went to a CEO, according to a submitted county council data report. It is not yet clear how a CEO working inside a school building in the future would report – given that the school would no longer need to call 911 for an armed offer to respond if a CEO is here.

Police also noted that 35% of those calls resulted in reports from the CEO with 11 arrests. About 39 of those cases went to juvenile services. It is not clear if these minors were sent to a diversion program.

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Montgomery County Police confirmed that MCPS currently has 21 of 23 licensed CEO positions filled – 19 of 21 CEOs are former SROs.

Another part of the proposal would include the creation of a Discipline Response Team and a Community Collaborative Engagement Committee. The committee would include a monthly meeting of community partners to discuss officer and school engagement and serious incident data.

“I want to take this opportunity to point out, I think some of what we missed in the previous conversation, sorry, around ORS there were a lot of relationship building elements that were facts,” Reuben said. “There were students who were open, who went and said, ‘Hey, I kind of heard that this could happen or this happened over the weekend in my community. “And we really never had the data on all the things that were avoided,” Reuben said Tuesday night.

Proposals to expand the CEO program are expected to be discussed in more detail at a joint Education and Culture/Public Safety Committee meeting scheduled to begin Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Montgomery County School Board Chairman echoed county executive Marc Elrich’s previously stated sentiments — both officials are not seeking a return of the SRO program.

PDG program proposals cannot become effective until a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed.

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