Jan 10, 2012 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
The halls of Fayetteville-Manlius High School will soon be patrolled by a full-time police officer.
The F-M Board of Education voted 8-0 Monday night to approve hiring a school resource officer to enhance safety and security district-wide. Board member Susan Ryan was absent.
The officer will patrol the high school but will be available to work with students and staff at any of the district’s other five buildings.
A safety and security task force of 41 F-M teachers, administrators, students, parents and elected officials last month unanimously recommended to the board the district hire an SRO.
“Taskforce members believe the addition of an SRO would enable the district to focus on continuous improvement of the safety and security of the internal and external facilities and grounds and the important work of education and mentoring of youth,” the taskforce’s report states. “While not at epidemic stages, drugs, alcohol and face-to-face bullying and cyber bullying are a concern here, as in all schools.”
The taskforce was formed after the board asked Superintendent Corliss Kaiser to research the issue in August.
“The outside societal pressure that our kids feel, like any other school district, with regard to drugs, alcohol, bullying, cyber bullying, what we want to do is work with out SRO to help our kids understand the deleterious effects of all of these issues,” Kaiser said following the vote. “And hopefully work with their parents, as well.”
Board President Marissa Joy Mims said administrators who deal with disciplinary issues daily have been very supportive of bringing in an SRO. The idea has also received positive support from parents, she said.
“Parents and community members entrust the school district with its children, and it is the district’s responsibility to ensure that students are safe and secure when in our care,” she said. “We have adopted core values that include cultivating a school climate of civility and strong character. An SRO would help promote those values throughout our district.”
Mims said the idea to hire an SRO has come before the school board a number of times before, and was brought up again when Jeff Brown was elected to the school board last spring.
“I had just heard anecdotal evidence that there’s issues of crime, drugs, that type of thing, in our schools,” said Brown, who has two young children in the district. “I felt strongly that we should take another look at [hiring an SRO].”
“I think it’s a great development, it’s overdue, and I think we’re moving in the right direction,” he added
The taskforce met four times during November and early December and heard from district officials and safety and security experts.
On Nov. 28, J.M. Cassalia and Associates conducted a preliminary security assessment focusing on the high school and recommended that the district centralize safety and security under one entity, as multiple staff members are currently responsible for various safety and security aspects. Hiring an SRO would fulfill that recommendation.
A recent survey conducted by the F-M administration found that approximately 40 percent of Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES school districts employ SROs, and only five of those districts have populations at or exceeding the number of students at F-M High School. Only two districts with a population substantially less than F-M employ an SRO.
Manlius Town Supervisor Ed Theobald spoke prior to the vote about the positive impact SROs have had in the East Syracuse-Minoa District, which is staffed with two Manlius police officers.
“One of the things that I’ve noticed over the years with the SRO at ESM is that they really are resource officers,” Theobald said. “They’re more than just a cop with a gun, they are confidants to the students.”
Taskforce member Jennifer Brady — a parent of two Wellwood Middle School students, three Mott Road Elementary students and one preschooler — voiced her support as well.
“I feel that tonight’s vote represents a significant opportunity to make a significant improvement in the safety and security of our district,” she said.
She commended the board for being willing to evaluate the school’s safety and security, before asking the audience of about 40 to raise their hand if they were in support of hiring an SRO.
Janice Dutton, who has a daughter at Wellwood Middle School, was one of about 30 audience members to oblige. She said she grew up in South Florida and attended a school in an area of similar demographics to F-M.
“We never had any problems, nothing ever going on, and there was a fight between two boys at school,” she said. “And the fallout from that fight over a three-day course of time was there were race riots, because two boys who happened to be different races got in a fight that had nothing to do with their race… but it turned into that. And I really feel that a school resource officer being there at that time could’ve completely changed that scenario.”
No one spoke in opposition to the hiring an SRO.
Before an officer can begin to work for the school district, the board of education will have to draft an implementation plan and adjust next year’s budget accordingly. An officer could be in place by July 1 at the earliest.
“More than likely it’s going to be late August, early September,” Kaiser said.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Michael Vespi said the SRO will earn between $70,000 and $83,000 a year. He said the new hire will require cuts in order to balance the budget, but instructional positions will not be affected.
“Any offsetting reductions will come from the support side of the budget, the operational aspects,” he said.