Grant sought for PRO at WHS

PARKERSBURG – An application for a $20,000 grant to continue funding the Prevention Resource Officer at Williamstown High School was unanimously approved Monday by the Wood County Commission,.

The application will be forwarded to the state and the deadline for its submission is April 1.

Meeting with Wood commissioners Monday, Toni Tiano, grant coordinator, and Deputy Sheriff Scott Jefferson, the Williamstown High Prevention Resource Officer, outlined the grant proposal.

“The grant application cannot exceed a request for $20,000. If approved, the grant funds go to help pay the salary and benefits of the officer. The Wood County Board of Education contributes $13,500. The remaining funding, about $22,000, comes out of the sheriff’s department budget,” Tiano said.

Jefferson explained his duties at the school.

“I teach some classes, act as a mentor to the kids. I spend my own time also attending extracurricular events like dances, sporting events, to build rapport with the students. I even write letters for their resumes to help them get scholarships,” he said.

Jefferson said the program makes students aware of the consequences of drinking and driving and domestic violence and is a means to gather information on potential threats at the school and in the community and stop them before they are carried out.

Such an incident may have been averted in the fall of 2012, he said.

According to reports at the time, Jefferson was notified by a student that another student was planning to take a gun to the high school the next day. The student allegedly said he would kill about 100 people then himself. Jefferson began working on a search warrant for the juvenile’s residence. The search warrant was executed and the juvenile was taken into custody.

As a result of the incident, Jefferson was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Service.

“I was invited to speak at the statewide Summit on Safe Schools and they used some of the information in the curriculum for safety in schools. The county received statewide attention,” Jefferson said.

The summit was held in February 2013.

The PRO program is expanding to the middle schools, he said.

“I’d like to see an officer in every school, I think that some of this violence would stop if we did,” Commissioner Steve Gainer said.

The program has been operational for about six years. The funding is made available through the Justice Assistance Program, West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Service.

“Unfortunately funds for the program keep getting cut. Violence in schools is going up, and the funding for the program is going down,” Jefferson said.