HUDSON– The county sheriff proposed stationing deputies in city schools at the Board of Education meeting Monday, February 24.
The meeting also included updates on student testing requirements, a discussion of student suspensions and a preview of the 2014-15 budget proposal.
Sheriff David Bartlett proposed that a deputy come regularly to district schools and have an office set aside in a school building in order to “be there when you need it.”
The deputy would come part-time, about 20 hours a week and would also serve the Germantown Central School District, with the two districts deciding between them how to allot the deputy’s time. The Ichabod Crane and Taconic Hills districts would each get a full-time deputy, but the sheriff told the board, “Part time is better than nothing.”
The in-school deputies would be specially certified School Resource Officers (SROs). “You aren’t going to see storm troopers,” Sheriff Bartlett said.
The SRO in-school office needs only a telephone and could be the size of “a broom closet,” said the sheriff. Once approved, an SRO could come “tomorrow,” he said.
The SRO deputies “do what you tell us to do,” from patrolling sports events, to eating lunch with students and getting to know them, to “sitting in a 3rd grade class and reading books to them,” as Sheriff Bartlett said he had done that day.
In explaining why police should be stationed in schools, the sheriff alternated between public relations and security. With SROs, he said, children “can see we’re real people”; they “learn that police officers are trustworthy.” He added that one goal is to replace the assumption that “if there’s a police officer in the school, there’s something wrong,” with the attitude that “it’s okay to have a police officer in the school.”
Still, Sheriff Bartlett said, “We’re here for safety. We can get here quickly. And in today’s day and age, we must be proactive instead of reactive. We have to think about what has happened in the past few years.”
He noted that recently there have been “incidents” in Berkshire, Dutchess County and Rensselaer counties.
Superintendent Maria Suttmeier indicated that Hudson once had SROs, and their value is clear in an emergency.
Board President Kelly Frank said that while she didn’t think the SRO program was a bad idea, “I don’t want [schools] to feel like a police state.” In addition, she expressed concern about public reaction to having “a policeman with an office in the school.”
Board member Carrie Otty said, “If all the school [districts] are doing it, we won’t stand out.”
Board member Joseph Carr told Sheriff Bartlett, “We want students to know you’re a resource instead of an intimidation.”
Also at this week’s meeting:
•April Prestipino, coordinator of school improvement, reminded the board that starting with the Class of 2022, in order to graduate from high school, students will have to score at least 75 on the English Regents and at least 80 on at least one math Regents test.
In addition, she said, immigrant children who do not know English are currently exempt from the English Language Arts assessment test for one year. Now the state Education Department is considering extending the exemption to two years.
•Ms. Suttmeier reported that more students were avoiding suspension by following original orders to report for detention. “The rate of children attending detention has increased,” she said, attributing the change to the district’s “progressive” discipline policy. If a student skips afternoon detention, the student gets ordered to extended afternoon detention. If the student skips extended detention, a process starts that could lead to suspension.
Suttmeier also reported that recently a disproportionate percent of the district’s students suspended are disabled. Consequently, the district is working with the Education Department to come up with a “corrective action plan” to try to reduce circumstances that lead to suspending disabled students.
Ms. Frank wondered whether smoking should remain a reason for suspension. Public health laws prohibit smoking on school grounds. Ms. Suttmeier said that health classes and other sources teach the dangers of smoking. But she said, “We have a culture of parents giving kids permission to go off school grounds to smoke”
•School Business Executive Robert Yusko reported that for the 2013-14 school year, district revenues are expected to exceed expenses. But in the preliminary budget for 2014-15, expenses are expected to exceed revenues. Sources of revenue include state aid, property taxes, and utility taxes. Expenses include salaries, employee benefits, equipment and supplies, BOCES, and debt service.
District custodians have been working without a contract since June 30, 2012, and teacher contracts expire soon
•Student representative William Glasser announced upcoming events, including a performance of Romeo and Juliet on March 13, a freshman orientation and Scholarship America workshop on March 20, and a hypnotist show on March 21
•A community conversation about the 2014-15 budget will take place February 26.
The next Board meeting will begin with a budget workshop March 10 in the High School Library; the workshop will start at 6 p.m. and the regular meeting at 7 p.m.