The Mineola Independent School District last week was taking the final steps in establishing a certified campus police department, and Officer Cody Castleberry was to be sworn in as police chief.
Castleberry, a former Mineola city police officer, took over the reins of campus security in September. He will be joined on the force by a second officer. Superintendent Kim Tunnell said she expects interviews for that position to commence the second week of December.
“Hopefully by January we’ll have things in place. We’ll have both officers, one for each of the campuses,” Tunnell said.
The school district and the city also have hammered out a cooperative agreement in regard to their respective police departments. Both have signed a memorandum of understanding concerning interaction between the two agencies.
“The Mineola Police Department has been tremendous in this whole process. They’ve assisted with interviews, with sharing information, with coordination. I can’t say enough about the partnership we have with them,” Tunnell said.
Meanwhile, the school district continues to evaluate ways to make its facilities more secure.
“One of the big concerns from Officer Castleberry is the entrances, that they’re still wide open. So we’re going to have to look at a short-term (solution) and then have a discussion about a long-term fix for the facilities, which will be substantially more money,” Tunnell said.
The MISD has budgeted $187,487 for campus security this fiscal year.
“We’re looking at additional security gates to slow or stop traffic. Right now, anyone can drive in to the back of the elementary school or behind the primary school. They have access to the playgrounds, so we need to secure that. It’s just to protect our children. We’re not trying to make it like a prison. But we’ve got to protect our kids.”
Also, Castleberry has been making inroads in getting to know the students, she said.
“He’s forming a relationship with the kids, having lunch with them and building those relationships. Because 90 percent of that job is preventative, only 10 percent is law enforcement,” Tunnell noted.