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Tribe Supports Massena Central Attempt To Bring Back In-School Cop, Which Is Not Funded In Pending 2018-19 Budget

 


MASSENA -- Although Massena Central has no funding for an in-school police officer in their 2018-19 budget, district officials say they have not ruled out the idea and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe supports the idea.

Massena’s Board of Education on April 16 approved a $54,442,331 budget that would raise $14,835,434 in taxes, .99 percent more than last year. It is subject to voter approval in May. The spending blueprint does not include funding for an in-school police officer, which many school and government officials refer to as a “school resource officer” or “student resource officer.”

Superintendent Pat Brady said the board had been waiting to hear if the state would fund law enforcement in schools. That didn’t happen, despite an overall increase in state aid over both the governor’s proposal and last year’s total.

“There isn’t anything in the budget for a school resource officer. It’s still a question as we look at school safety. We’ve had discussions with our local police department, so we may have more discussions and research and bring it to the Board of Education at some point,” Brady said. “The first step was to see if there’s funding in the state budget ... now that there isn’t, we need to look whether we have the resources or the interest from the board to look at this issue.”

Tribal officials say they would support law enforcement in school at Massena Central, similar to the police presence already at the Salmon River Central.

“The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe continues to support measures that make the safety and well-being of all students a priority. Having a School Resource Officer at both the St. Regis Mohawk School and Salmon River Central School has proven beneficial and we anticipate the same for the Massena Central School. Their daily presence is a commitment and assurance by the school district that an expeditious and timely response will be provided to any emergency situation,” Tribal Council said in an emailed statement.

Many districts in the North Country and across the United States have been talking about having a law enforcement presence in school, in many cases armed and with the power to make arrests. Those discussions gained traction and came to the forefront after the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla. shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 students and staff were murdered.

Massena Central has had a police officer in school in the past. Then-officer Patrick Serguson, who has since retired and is now a local justice, patrolled the school from 2002 to 2007, Brady said. The officer spent most of his time at the high school and J.W. Leary Junior High. Brady at the time worked at Leary as a school administrator.

Serguson was armed when working at the Massena district. Brady said he believes most, if not all, police working as school resource officers in New York state do carry firearms on the job.

Serguson’s position at Massena Central was funded through a cost-sharing agreement between the school and village.

Although the 2018-19 MCS budget isn’t funding in-school law enforcement, it will add some positions and pay for more school supplies. At the high school, it will fund an English language arts teacher for the Freshman Academy. The program is to help ninth-graders transition to high school and includes lessons in writing, reading, study and digital citizenship skills. The budget will also pay a stipend to a teacher who also will take on the Freshman Academy advisor role. There will be a new special education teacher at the junior high and a literacy intern per elementary building, if the voters next month approve the budget.

Other items included in the budget include: More bus hours for high school college and career visits; more supplies for junior high and elementary teachers; a speech pathologist for students age 4 and under; a part-time school psychologist from BOCES; an IT support specialist, a seven-passenger van; and a contractual and supplies budget. All of the positions and items total $453,600, according to a presentation from Brady.

The budget would also create a $300,000 capital reserve account to save money for future projects.

“It will allow us to have a minimal local share after state aid for any project we do in the future ... any money we put aside will help offset any liability for the taxpayers,” Brady said.

He said he thinks the board has done well with their 2018-19 spending plan.

“It was, in my opinion, a good budget,” he said.

“I’d like to thank the finance committee, (district business manager) Nick (Brouilette)’s group, administrators for all the hard work drawing that up,” Board President Pat Bronchetti said.

The budget passed 7-0. Trustees Jason Premo and Lorie MacKenzie were not at the meeting. MacKenzie’s resignation was from the board was announced later on in the April 16 meeting.

The public will get to make comments at a budget hearing on May 3 at 7 p.m. in the high school’s room 314. The budget will go to the voters on May 15. People who live in the school district will be able to cast ballots from noon to 8 p.m. at the Massena Community Center, 61 Beach St.

 

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