Warily, Chatham school board eyes OK for deputy

CHATHAM–The Board of Education continued discussing whether to accept the offer from the sheriff of a school resource officer working part-time in the school district. The board could vote on the matter at its next business meeting June 24.

In March Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett offered to provide the district with a deputy to serve as an school resource officer (SRO) for 20 hours a week at no cost to the district. New Lebanon, Germantown, and Hudson districts have all already agreed to similar proposals. And Taconic Hills and Ichabod Crane have agreed on terms that will provide for each of those districts its own full-time SRO, with the districts paying half of a deputy’s salary. But after consulting with the public, the Chatham school board delayed its decision to gather more information.

Chatham board members appear favor of giving the proposal a try, though several still have concerns. President Melony Spock said she visited the Guilderland School district, which has an SRO. She met with the SRO and the Guilderland principal, questioning them about the SRO’s duties.

She said the SRO begins his day at the police station to get briefed on what is going on in the community, and then goes to the school where he spends five full days a week. She said his duties at the school include being a member of the safety team, monitoring school events, risk assessment, and training hall monitors. She said he also goes into classrooms and talks about drugs and alcohol, rape, sexual predators, and teaches self-defense. She said the SRO does not get involved in school disciplinary matters. She said the SRO has an annual review done by the police department.

“In Guilderland, it’s really collaborative between the school and the police department,” she said.

Ms. Spock said she is in favor of giving the SRO proposal a try, with the option to call it off if the district believes it’s not working. She said she is not in favor because of “what-ifs”, but because the program has educational benefit for students.

“I don’t really see the need for a uniformed police officer. But when I went to Guilderland, I liked that the man was a team player and a part of the educational process,” she said. “It’s free, and I wouldn’t mind having a trial.”

Board Member Muriel Faxon said that the presentation last month by the district’s principals helped make up her mind about accepting the SRO proposal. At the May 13 workshop meeting, Chatham Principals Kristen Reno, Amy Potter and John Thorsen spoke about how they would utilize an SRO in their respective schools. Among the things mentioned were traffic and bike safety training, writing contests, training on the responsible use of cell phones, supervision at games, and presentations on drugs, health, social media and distracted driving.

Member Gail Day said she was concerned that the school could end up responsible for funding the position in the future.

Mike Clark voiced another concern. “I don’t like the idea of having a police state in the district,” he said. “I think it creates a different atmosphere, not one that I desire.”

Jennifer Lindberg said she has “mixed feelings about it for multiple reasons,” but believes it can offer additional benefits to the district.

Craig Simmons said he’s in favor of an SRO, as long as the district keeps a close eye to make sure they have “the right person.”

“I see it as a win for the district,” said board Vice President James Toteno.

“I don’t see why Chatham needs one,” said Collin Anderson, the student representative on the board. “But I feel that if it’s free, we should just try it out and see how it goes.”

In other business last week former board member David O’Connor spoke during the public comment part of the agenda in response to a recent article in the Chatham Press, saying that while the debate over the consolidation of district schools is one where reasonable people can disagree, he believes there has been “a lack of civility” and what he said were “accusations made that are unfounded… and set a poor example for the students that we want to educate.”

Mr. O’Connor said he did not remember being presented with a reported student survey when he was a school board member and he urged the board to move forward with consolidation, saying delay “hurts the financial standing of this district.”

But district resident Wayne Coe defended the article, calling it “civil” and “true.” He said he heard from students that there was a student survey. Mr. Coe said he believes the survey was kept from the board.

Also at the June 10 workshop meeting the board:

Was presented with the results of the state Report Card for the 2012-13 school year. Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo said the middle school met all targets in all subjects listed in the report card. At the high school, all targets were met except math by white students. She said graduation rates were “stable.”

Students who qualified for free or reduced lunch made up 30% of the school population. She said this is how the district determines its students’ poverty levels

Saw a presentation on the work done this year on the Professional Development Plan. The report was presented by Jodi Sullivan, Paula Ptaszek, and Brian Simon

Recognized students Abigail Rubel as valedictorian and Ellis Okawa-Scannell as salutatorian

Recognized six teacher retirees: Jaimee Boehme (10 years), Kimberly Costigan (29 years), Susan Grybas (35 years), Jeffrey Kole (34 years), Paula Ptaszek (35.7 years), and Deborah Roth (29.5 years). Those in attendance received certificates presented by Ms. Spock.

 

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