Tre’ Hutchins reveals school safety plan at McEachern town hall

Cobb Police Chief VanHoozer and Cobb school board member Tre' Hutchins

Cobb County Police Chief Stuart VanHoozer joined Tre’ Hutchins to address the audience. Photo by Rebecca Gaunt

by Rebecca Gaunt

Post 3 Cobb County school board member Leroy Tre’ Hutchins proposed his school safety plan at the second town hall following the Feb. 1 parking lot shooting at McEachern High School that shook the Powder Springs community.

According to police, the two gunshot victims, who are expected to recover, were former students. Two students have been arrested for their involvement.

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The event was a follow-up to last week’s town hall at the Powder Springs City Council Chambers which was too small for the size of the audience. Hutchins estimated 80 attendees were stuck in the lobby or parking lot unable to get in.

The second one was held at the McEachern High School Performing Arts Center. 

Hutchins presented his proposed agenda item regarding safety that he’s working to introduce at an upcoming meeting in advance of looming budget discussions. Last August, he was unable to get it on the meeting agenda, which is set by the board chair and superintendent. Post 7’s board member Brad Wheeler was acting as chair at the time.

Hutchins hopes that one of the four Republicans will support the measure, ensuring it will come up for discussion this time around.

School support officers (SSOs), who are non-POST certified security staff to supplement POST-certified school resource police officers (SROs) is a top priority for Hutchins. He echoed sentiments Ragsdale shared at a previous board meeting, that even if he had the budget, it would be impossible to find enough people to staff SRO positions at every school.

Weapon detection technology at events and in the school was also on the list. Unlike traditional metal detectors, such systems don’t require waiting in line and the emptying of pockets and bags.

Audience suggestions included mandatory student ID badges, an onsite command center such as the one used by Cobb police, and detectors for smoking and vaping in bathrooms.

Hutchins is also requesting a financial analysis of the items in his plan.

“You know what people are passionate about, and what’s their priority when you look at their checkbook,” Hutchins said. “I’m suggesting that we get a financial analysis so that when we say, when I say, when the board of education says that safety is our priority, we show that.”

He also noted that the district has a surplus as well as SPLOST.

Like the first meeting, members of the audience expressed frustration that neither  Superintendent Chris Ragsdale nor Principal Regina Montgomery attended.

Hutchins clarified for the audience that Ragsdale was not in attendance because it was a community town hall, not a district function. He also said Ragsdale was out of state on district business. Hutchins promised to take the information back to him and that Montgomery would be available during the week to speak with parents.

Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady and Cobb Chief of Police Stuart VanHoozer also spoke, and state Rep. David Wilkinson arrived for the end of the town hall following a meeting at the legislature.

Wheeler and Post 2 school board member Becky Sayler were present as well. Under the new redistricting map signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Brian Kemp, McEachern will be in Post 7 rather than Post 3.

McEachern sophomore Sade Brooker requested improved communication between students and the school board. Photo by Rebecca Gaunt

McEachern sophomore Sade Brooker suggested the school have a student advocate to connect with the school board.

“We [can] have a direct line so we can talk to the people who make the rules and that way the students aren’t left in the dust,” she said.

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