Montgomery County Public Schools plan to expand Community Engagement Officer program

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

The CEO 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 promised a review of the current security plan following the January shooting of a 15-year-old student inside Magruder High School. 

This was the first time in county history any student had been shot inside the school, according to multiple county leaders.

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

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

The proposals include MCPS now offering CEOs a "designated workspace at each high school" but Reuben said that does not mean the CEO would be permanently stationed at that school. 

MCPS is also requesting more say in what officers the Montgomery County Police Department selects to be in the CEO program. School leaders want to have CEOs participate in school initiatives like the D.A.R.E. program. 

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

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Uniformed police officers were removed from school buildings at the start of this school year. The program was then changed from a state-outlined SRO model to a CEO program where officers were assigned to cover school clusters. The officers were only allowed inside a school building if called for an emergency.  

Montgomery County Police Asst. Chief Carmen Facciolo, who now leads the Community Engagement Officer program, testified on Tuesday that in the first half of this school year (August 31, 2021 – December 31, 2021), the county’s Emergency Communications Center (ECC) processed 1,688 911 calls for service.

Around 93% of those calls were dispatched to a CEO, according to a County Council data report submitted. It’s not clear yet how a CEO working inside a school building in the future would report — given the school would no longer need to call 911 for an armed offer to respond if a CEO is there.

Police also noted 35% of those calls resulted in CEO reports with 11 arrests made. Around 39 of those cases went to juvenile services. It’s not clear if those juveniles were sent to a diversion program.

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

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

"I do want to use the opportunity to highlight, I think part of what we missed in the earlier conversation, excuse me, around SROs was there were a lot of relationship building pieces that were done," Reuben said "There were students who confided, who went and said, ‘Hey I kind of heard this might happen or this happened over the weekend in my community.’ And we really never had the data about all of the things that were averted," said Reuben Tuesday evening.

The proposals to expand the CEO Program are expected to be discussed in greater detail during a planned joint Education & Culture/Public Safety Committee meeting starting on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. The Montgomery County Board of Education President echoed County Executive Marc Elrich’s sentiments previously stated – both officials are not looking for a return of the SRO program.

CEO program proposals cannot take effect until there is a signed Memorandum of Agreement.