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School board meeting

The full Warrensburg Board of Education was present for a recent meeting when a motion to hire two school resource officers failed to pass, 4-3. Residents have voiced support for the hiring at several recent meetings, and the district hosted a safety forum on the topic in March. 

WARRENSBURG — A motion to hire two school resource officers again failed to pass this month at the school board meeting Monday night.

Although the agenda called for a public presentation on the budget, the conversation during the public comment period turned quickly to the debate surrounding the school board’s decision not to hire resource officers for the district.

Last month’s vote ended in a 3-3 tie, with board member Ash Anand absent from the meeting. Anand was present for the meeting Monday, however, and cast a deciding vote against the motion.

Anand has annoyed many in Warrensburg by his poor attendance record at board meetings in recent years, missing 31 of the 34 monthly meetings since July 1, 2017. Multiple people in attendance Monday again called for him to step down.

Board President Doug West has said in the past Anand remains active in committees and other board business, and Anand said although he is often unable to attend meetings, he takes the role seriously.

“I have four kids in the district,” Anand said. “A lot of people may not realize all that I do for the board, and it’s not necessarily just a matter of attending a meeting. I attend a lot of meetings that people don’t see me at.”

Anand said he has his own priorities that may not always align with everyone in the district, and his work schedule often keeps him out of the country.

No board members had changed their minds since the vote in April, with Dianne Angell, Jonathan Boston and Robert Frasier voting in favor and Elaine Cowin, Doug West and Nicole Winchell voting against with Anand.

Anand said he voted against the motion because he would like to explore other security options before going to an armed officer. He said he is not opposed to the idea but would like to pursue other ways to protect the district.

“I own a day care where I have about 80 kids coming into that facility every single day, and as an owner, I’m responsible for their security,” Anand said. “I take measures that are safe and I don’t have an SRO in my day care but I do have plans on levels of protection.”

Vocal support

Many Warrensburg residents have voiced support for hiring a resource officer, and district officials held a public forum on the topic and other safety issues in March.

District resident Monique White said Monday night an officer in the school could be a neutral third-party resource for students dealing with bullying.

White said her daughter, who is half black and half white, has been called racial slurs on several occasions by other students. When her daughter reported one of these incidents to the principal, the student who said the racist comments was given one day of in-school suspension, White said.

“My child is continually being called these racial slurs even after the situation. No, she will not go back to the principal, because she feels like you guys will do nothing,” White said. “An SRO officer is Switzerland. It’s not part of the school. It’s somebody she can turn to if something like this happens.”

Election looms

Board member Elaine Cowin’s term ends this year, and she is running for re-election against Darren Duell, who attended the meeting Monday night. Both candidates were given a chance to address the audience briefly.

Duell said he graduated from Warrensburg before joining the Navy and, eventually, moving back to raise his family. He also made it clear he would support the hiring of a resource officer.

“Right now, I have four kids in Warrensburg ranging from eighth grade to pre-K, so I will be here for quite a while,” Duell said. “I know one of the big topics is a school resource officer which, as a military person and where I was, I am very well for that. I think it would help out for the kids and keep the school safe.”

Cowin said she has grown into the role during her time on the board and she now really enjoys many aspects of the job, especially honoring students in the districts, and she votes her conscience on issues. She did not directly address the resource officer dispute but has voted against the hiring in the past.

“I feel like it is my responsibility to do the best I can,” Cowin said. “Now we may not agree, but you have to do what you think is right and that’s what leads me, and that’s all I can promise.”

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Samuel Northrop is the education reporter for The Post-Star. He can be reached at snorthrop@poststar.com.

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