Board struggling to fill officer slots

GESD will have only one resource officer instead of planned three

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Enlarged School District will be unable to fill two of the three school resource officer positions that were funded in this year’s school budget before the first day of classes.

The GESD Board of Education included $190,000 in the 2018-19 school budget to fund the addition of three resource officers to serve district schools starting this fall.

The school district reached an agreement with the city and the Gloversville Police Department in July to have an active duty officer, Ronald Reu, reassigned to the district for the school year, planning to hire two outside individuals as district staff members to fill the remaining positions.

GESD Superintendent David Halloran reported during Monday’s school board meeting that the district would be unable to fill the positions before the school year starts on Sept. 5 and for the time being.

“We are 100 percent safer than we were last year in that we have an SRO joining us day one,” Halloran said. “At this point we are not going to have safety officers at the start of the school year.”

According to Halloran the district initially sought to hire independent contractors to fill the positions, but the cost for personal insurance was simply too high to attract candidates.

“Then the thought was let’s get them to be district employees, and the problem lay in the notion that they still need to be affiliated with a police agency for recertification purposes, training, things like that,” Halloran said.

Board of Education Vice President Paula Brown-Weinstock asked if the district might be able to successfully fill the positions by reversing the board’s June decision to arm the safety officers.

“It sounds like the hold up with safety officers is getting certified to fire weaponry, retraining, all that, would we ever consider having a safety officer that wasn’t armed,” Brown-Weinstock said. “I’m not saying permanently.”

“People can do lots of things without weapons,” she added.

Halloran said seeking unarmed safety officers would remove a number of obstacles, but the Fulton County Department of Civil Service does not currently have a list of candidates the district can hire safety officers from and does not provide an exam for such a position.

“I’ve asked our attorneys to work with Fulton County Civil Service to see if it’s something that we can hire for, then they can create a test after the fact, but there is no test or list of safety officers in Fulton County and there may not be in any county,” he said.

Halloran noted that he had discussed options surrounding the positions with Chief of Police Marc Porter, saying it may be feasible for another school resource officer to be assigned to the school district at some point in the future although it is not at this time.

Porter appeared before the school board in March to present details surrounding the possible assignment of officers to the school district, saying he would only be able to make one officer available for the 2018-19 school year.

He said at the time the Gloversville Police Department added four officers in 2017 to help the department handle the station’s current call volume and would be required by the city to remain at that staffing level for the next three years.

Halloran and the school board previously discussed placement of the three planned for safety officers, intending to place Reu at the middle and high school campus, while the other officers divided their time between the remaining schools.

With only one school resource officer coming aboard this fall, Halloran still recommended that Reu primarily be stationed at the middle and high school.

“I certainly think having a police presence in the other buildings makes sense. I view their role as pretty proactive, and kind of preventive, so I can’t see them preventing little kids from misbehaving at elementary schools,” Halloran said. “It’s administration’s role to clearly define the expectations for comportment on our campuses.”

Along with the addition of a school resource officer when school starts in less than two weeks, Halloran said a number of procedural changes recommended by former Gloversville Police Chief Donald VanDeusen have been implemented to improve school safety.

Halloran did not disclose the changes or recommendations Monday, arguing that making school safety procedures that are meant to protect students and staff public knowledge would defeat the purpose.

“Any procedural changes that are just common sense, make sense, we’re going to implement those changes,” Halloran said. “At this point nothing that costs money is being implemented without [the board] being part of the conversation.”

VanDeusen was contracted by the district as a safety consultant from June 1 through 22 at a rate of $222 per day to review districtwide operations and procedures.

The Board of Education may consider implementing facilities recommendations once ongoing districtwide capital project work is complete if any of the $37.8 million budgeted is left over or may consider options while preparing the 2019-20 school budget.