Board approves possible resource officer

The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES Board of Education on Wednesday approved the exploration of a possible agreement with the Fulton County Sheriff's Department to employ a school resource officer at Meco Elementary School in Gloversville where several BOCES programs are located. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

JOHNSTOWN — The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES Board of Education on Wednesday approved the exploration of a possible agreement with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department to employ a school resource officer at Meco Elementary School in Gloversville where several BOCES programs are located.

“This is just the exploration of the possibility of putting a resource officer in there, there is no contract yet,” HFM BOCES Interim Superintendent Anita Murphy said Wednesday. “We will be very judicious and conscious with this…we want our children to be safe and we will make sure as we go through this arrangement we do it very carefully.”

Deputy Superintendent Lorraine Hohenforst explained that HFM BOCES currently houses four special education classrooms for high school age students and the Foothills PTECH Academy of Health and Medical Sciences in the Gloversville Enlarged School District’s Meco Elementary School building.

“We don’t have any additional support over there and we felt that was important for those programs,” Hohenforst said. “Gloversville has its own school resource officer and their own security person, our programs are in Meco, so we needed to have someone who would be supporting our programs and not taking away from the Gloversville school district programs.”

The Gloversville Police Department entered an agreement with the city and GESD to assign an active duty officer to the district as a school resource officer at the beginning of the current school year. Hohenforst noted that although the Meco school is located in Gloversville, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department.

“So we had reached out to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, because that’s the entity that governs that area,” Hohenforst said.

Murphy and Hohenforst stressed to the board that discussions are in the preliminary stages, saying that a final contract will not come before the board for approval unless it is the right fit for HFM BOCES, students and staff.

“When we put police in schools I think it’s really important that we think about them like we think about community policing, so those folks that get to know our children, that get to know the people around them, that work with the kids in a positive manner that provides support. Not a patrol car on the streets,” Murphy said. “I want to know what their training is, what training we give them on top of that training, how we get them to know our children, how we help them understand that these are children with disabilities and individualized education programs and those kinds of things.”

“If you can’t find the right people,” Murphy added, “then this exploration stops, that’s why we’re exploring it and not just putting somebody in there.”

Hohenforst noted that before discussions with HFM BOCES could commence, Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino needed to secure permission from the Fulton County Board of Supervisors to create the position of a special patrol officer to employ at Meco.

The resolution approved by the county supervisors on April 8 will require HFM BOCES to bear all costs associated with the position including a per diem hourly rate and the cost of uniforms and equipment. The resolution includes a hold harmless provision removing all liability from the county and stipulates any contract will be subject to cancellation by either party with 30 days written notice.

“[Giardino] needed permission from the Fulton County Board of Supervisors to even consider an additional position in the sheriff’s department,” Hohenforst said. “Now he’s putting together a contract with us that we will now look at very carefully.”

“There are things you have to do up front which is why we put this resolution forward, because we shouldn’t even be exploring this without board permission to do this, it’s not a small thing,” Murphy added. “I promise you that nothing will be done until the board signs a contract.”

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