Former Lamar Consolidated ISD Board President James Steenbergen said the city of Rosenberg and its police department never “urged” the school district to add more cops on campus.
James Steenbergen said the school district even asked the city and Rosenberg Police Department if the number of School Resource Officers was adequate.
Steenbergen was responding to statements made by Rosenberg City Council member Jacob Balderas.
Balderas told The Herald in a front- page story Tuesday that the city and RPD repeatedly asked LCISD to add more officers but the requests were denied.
RPD has provided armed security at campuses since 1998. The school district reimburses RPD for salaries, cost of equipment and patrol vehicles plus a 10% administrative fee.
The 18 officers assigned to the School Resource Officer program is woefully short of the number needed to adequately safeguard students and staff at LCISD campuses, Balderas said.
He said the SRO program needs an additional 16 officers to meet security demands.
However, because LCISD pays the bills, LCISD has the final say in the number of officers hired, Balderas explained.
The city council voted last week to notify the school district it would end its long-running SRO program effective July 2021.
The council did not discuss the reason publicly and Balderas told The Herald he felt compelled to set the record straight.
He said the school board never reviewed the city’s requests for more officers because Supt. Dr. Thomas Randle handled the requests himself.
Steenbergen said he was stunned to read Balderas’ comments.
“I have attended Rosenberg City Council meetings and listened to their meetings when statistics for the School Resource Officers have been discussed and never once did I hear a point of discussion about the school district’s refusal to add more police officers,” Steenbergen said.
He said the school board did review requests for new officers, despite Balderas’ statements to the contrary.
“It was about three years ago that the Lamar CISD Board had a closed session on security where we discussed, among many other things, the School Resource Officer staffing level,” Steenbergen said.
“Shortly thereafter, the board authorized the purchase of 10 new police vehicles, four to replace existing cars and six for the new officers that we anticipated hiring.
“Absolutely none of this was prompted by any urgings from Rosenberg. I have no idea where Mr. Balderas got the notion that nothing was done after three years of their urging.”
Steenbergen said LCISD even asked the city publicly if more cops were needed on campus.
“In open meeting, I specifically heard the current board ask (the Rosenberg Police Department representative) if any more SRO’s were needed,” he said.
“The response from Rosenberg was not at this time because of the size of the campuses, the campus security staff and the other safety measures that had been put in place.”
Rosenberg Police Chief Jonathan White told The Herald on Wednesday that he had asked LCISD to add one more officer last year and it was denied.
Balderas said the city and its chief has asked for more officers for the past several years and was always denied.
White said he would like to provide one officer per 1,000 students, the ratio recommended the National Association of School Resource Officers.
But White told The Herald that the reason for ending the SRO program was that the police department cannot provide the officers needed by the ever-growing school district.
When the city first entered into the SRO contract with LCISD, the school district only had two high schools, two middle schools, two junior high schools and five to six elementary schools.
It now has five high school campuses, five junior high schools, five middle schools and 26 elementary schools, and more campuses being built.
Steenbergen refuted Balderas’ statements that Randle handled all the decisions regarding the SRO program.
“The contention that Dr. Randle doesn’t confide in the board and is making all of the decisions is just plain ludicrous,” Steenbergen said.
“While on the board, I had numerous conversations with Dr. Randle about these specific issues, as I am sure the current board continues to do.”
Steenbergen said he doesn’t understand what happened to the once amicable relationship between the city and LCISD.
“For years, the district had a very harmonious and productive relationship with Rosenberg and the Rosenberg PD,” he recounted.
“During my time on the board, I never saw any contentious issues.
“Within the past couple of years, the city council seems to have gotten a bur under their saddles about the relationship which finally resulted in this somewhat questionable methodology for terminating the contract.”
Chief White is quick to say that the school district and the city and RPD have a harmonius relationship.
He pledged RPD would maintain the amicable relationship throughout the transition period and beyond.
Steenbergen said LCISD’s campus security staff and school resource officers have different authorities and responsibilities, which complement each other.
“Plans are in place to take care of our children no matter what Rosenberg City Council does,” Steenbergen said.
“The safety and security of all of LCISD students and employees has been and always will be top priority.”