School resource officer deal falls through

MASSENA — While the Massena Central School District’s Board of Education agreed to retain a school resource officer for another year, a one-year intermunicipal agreement with the village of Massena to provide the individual fell through after village trustees declined to support the position during their meeting on Tuesday.

Jody Daggett worked from the beginning of the 2019-20 school year until the school closed in March 2020 because of COVID-19.

Deputy Mayor Matthew J. LeBire said during Tuesday’s meeting that he and Trustee Francis J. Carvel had met with District Superintendent Patrick Brady to say that, although they were both strongly in favor of the school resource officer, they still had some concerns.

Among those concerns was the village’s liability if something happened on school grounds and the school and village were sued.

“I expressed my opinion that the school should hire a person of their own,” Mr. LeBire said.

Mr. Carvel said the district had other options instead of linking up with the village to provide a person for the position.

“That was the only option out there (in 2019). But since that time, things have changed. They have really other options that are available to the school,” he said.

He said his opinion was, “Let the school handle the whole thing. They basically have control over that person. We don’t have any control over that person. It just makes more sense” to make the school resource officer a district employee, he said.

Mayor Timmy J. Currier asked if trustees wanted to consider allowing the district time to study its options before severing ties.

“They had six weeks for this. I think they have time right now,” Mr. Carvel said, noting that if they continued to use Mr. Daggett, he was already on board and would become a district employee.

“I can’t see a big problem,” he said.

“Since there is another option, I’m not in favor,” Mr. LeBire said. “They have a person. They seem very happy with that person. The way they describe the SRO now to me doesn’t make it sound as critical that it be a police officer.”

He said the district would continue to have a retired police officer on its staff.

“It’s simply a change in classification” from village employee to district employee, Mr. LeBire said.

Mr. Brady said he wasn’t happy to hear the village’s decision.

“I’m very disappointed that the village board is no longer supporting our partnership for our school resource officer,” he said.

He said the position had been developed after a year of studies and hearings to help keep children and staff safe within the schools.

“I would not move forward in the first place if I didn’t have that support. One year later, after the backing of the village board, it no longer seems to have the support of trustees,” Mr. Brady said.

Salary and benefits for the position were paid for through a Title 4 grant. The village was responsible for setting up the training of the school resource officer, overseeing the person’s work and purchasing the equipment that was needed for the job.

“The district is largely paying for the school resource officer, who is an employee of the village. By being an employee of the village, it allows him to have the training that all police officers would have and he is under their supervision as a police officer. That is not normally a function of the school district We’re not set up for training of police officers, overseeing their work and purchasing the equipment they need to do their job,” Mr. Brady said.

“There’s really nothing that has changed from our perspective from last year when the village board entered into the agreement to have the resource officer in our school. It’s confusing to me why we have trustees who are turning their back on this agreement,’ he said.

Mr. Brady said, when he met with trustees, the largest issue appeared to be liability, “which again, I don’t know what’s happened between last year and this year” to change their minds.

He said Mr. Daggett kept a daily log of his activities, including mediating conflicts between students, escorting belligerent students out of the school, investigating potential threats toward the school, and participating in district and building safety team meetings, lockdowns, evacuations and tabletop exercises.

“With the school closing in March, we had less than a year of the program, but it was a positive impact. We were ready to move into year two,” he said.

The district is currently focusing on developing reopening plans, which must be submitted to the state Education Department by July 31. That leaves little time to deal with the school resource officer position right now, Mr. Brady said.

“To now step aside and decide how we’re going to fill a key position is very concerning,” he said, noting they would need to work through the county and its civil service list, which could take some time.

“It’s a significant process to do again. I’ll have to go back to the school board and see if that’s the direction they want to go. I’m not sure if the school board and community would have the same level of support if the district was responsible for hiring its own school resource officer and taking on the responsibility of training and equipment of essentially a police officer. It’s not something we’ve previously considered. We’ve always enjoyed the cooperation of the village of Massena,” he said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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