GESD preparing resource officer details

School attorneys still working on job description

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Enlarged School District is preparing final details surrounding the addition of three school resource officers for the coming school year, including whether to arm the officers who will be stationed inside district schools.

During the July 2 GESD Board of Education meeting, newly appointed Superintendent David Halloran informed the board that school attorneys are still working on the job description for the school resource officers that were included in the approved 2018-19 school budget.

The district included $190,000 in the line item for truancy officer/SRO in the 2018-19 school budget over the past school year’s budgeted amount of $37,758, planning to add three resource officers to serve district schools in the fall.

City Police Chief Marc Porter discussed existing school safety measures within the district and further options, including the possible introduction of resource officers, during the Feb. 26 school board meeting, one day after a supposed threat against Gloversville Middle School was made over social media. Police deemed the threat not credible, saying they could find no instances of a threat having been made.

In March, Porter returned to the board saying his department could potentially provide one officer to serve the school at a cost of about $80,000 per year including benefits. He noted that police contracts run through Dec. 31, meaning the officer’s salary could rise midway through the year following renegotiations.

The school board ultimately decided to move ahead with plans to introduce three resource officers, according to Halloran one will be a reassigned active duty officer from the police department who would continue to be an employee of the department while the other two will be hired by the district.

The placement of the resource officers at district schools has not yet been determined, but Halloran said he envisioned overlapping assignments similar to a venn diagram that would see one officer serving primarily Gloversville High School and the middle school part time, the second officer covering the middle school and one of the elementary schools and the third officer covering the two remaining elementary schools.

“I want to see the skill set and personalities of the safety officers before we make that determination, but having the SRO primarily at the high school and somewhat at the middle school makes sense to me,” Halloran said.

In addition to working on the job description that will open up the application process for the district to seek candidates for the two in-house resource officers later this summer, Halloran informed the board that he needed their input on whether the officers should be armed.

“The board does need to consider what we are going to do with policy regarding these consultants carrying weapons, so if we’re going to approve this we need a policy. I don’t know where the board stands on this,” Halloran said. “I’d like a directive to move forward to create a policy arming these consultants if that’s what we’re going to do. I don’t want to do that if the board doesn’t support it.”

Board of Education member Kevin Kucel said he supported arming the resource officers, noting that the officers will have training, possibly being retired from active police duty.

“These are safety officers so they may not be active law enforcement, but they would need to qualify at the range every year and be certified,” Halloran added.

“If we’re unfortunate enough to have a situation happen where there is an active shooter, I would want a safety officer here that’s going to run to the fight than run from it,” Kucel said. “I don’t know how helpful it’s going to be to have officers here with no weapons on them.”

The other board members voiced their support, with Vincent Salvione saying, “I wouldn’t vote to put them in there without a weapon, it doesn’t make any sense.”

With the board’s consent Halloran said he would move forward with drafting a policy surrounding arming the resource officers for board approval in August before the officers start their new positions in the fall. The active duty city police officer assigned to the district will also be armed.

Following the meeting, Halloran voiced his own support for arming the officers noting that in his previous position as Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District superintendent he had overseen the creation of two armed resource officer positions for the 2018-19 school year.

“I think it is an unpleasant fact of life in our society these days,” Halloran said. “Having people there equipped to defend themselves and the precious students and staff is an unpleasant reality. We hope those people will never need to defend themselves or our students and staff, but we certainly want to ensure that they are prepared to do so if necessary.”