GLENS FALLS — Glens Falls Superintendent of Schools Paul Jenkins and Police Chief Tony Lydon presented their plan to the Common Council on Tuesday to put a school resource officer in the district.
Jenkins said the city has been having discussions with police for the last three or four months about having a full-time officer assigned to the district.
In the wake of school shootings across the country, other Warren County school districts have already or are in the process of contracting with the Sheriff’s Office for part-time officers assigned to their schools. These are retired law enforcement officers who would earn up to $30,000 per year.
Jenkins said Glens Falls is looking for not just an armed guard at the door, but something more expansive where the officer would help staff members and students with conduct drills, offer programs on bullying and other issues and serve as a resource for students.
“Having that individual in our building and working with our staff and making connections with our students and families is really the route that I think would be best,” he said.
Lydon said this person would be first and foremost a law enforcement officer, but would also be able to serve as counselor and address behavioral issues. It is good to educate parents about the consequences students would face if these behavioral problems occurred outside a school setting, he said.
In addition, Lydon said the officer could teach information to high school government classes about search-and-seizure laws and other aspects of law enforcement.
Lydon reiterated the importance of the connection the officer can build with students and talk with them about everything from the latest basketball or football game to some problem they are having.
The officer becomes not just another cop to the students, according to Lydon.
“We know him. We’re comfortable with him. We’ll talk to you about anything,” he said.
Lydon said the Glens Falls Police Department is already at the school 300 times per year for all kinds of calls. Having a school resource officer there would allow this person to be in place five days a week.
“We’re already there a lot as it is. We’d just be assigning somebody to the school on a regular basis,” he said.
Lydon said school officials would have input into the hire to make sure the person is a good fit.
Cost estimates for the program have not yet been determined. Jenkins said afterward the goal is to get the SRO in place for the new school year in the fall.
Lydon said the plan is to reassign a current officer to the school and hire a new officer to fill that position.
Councilwoman Diana Palmer wanted to know some of the other initiatives the district is working on to improve school safety.
Jenkins said the school has upgraded its system that keeps all of its emergency plans. That software system has 360-degree photos of every classroom. It is not a live view, but it would give first-responders an idea of how the room is laid out.
In addition, Jenkins said the district has upgraded its security cameras and renovated the entrances at all buildings, except for one, to become secure vestibules where people have to be buzzed into the facility. The remaining elementary school is going to be upgraded in the next capital project.
The district also has a dedicated hall monitor to check to make sure doors are locked during the course of the day, and there is a police presence at arrival and dismissal.
The district has mental health service providers come into the buildings and work with students, and Glens Falls is looking to expand upon that next year, according to Jenkins. The district has added social workers and psychologists and is looking at another position for students. This will address not just the safety component, but the social and emotional needs of students.
“The SRO position would really complement everything we’ve done over the years,” he said.
Councilman Scott Endieveri said he has spoken to an Amsterdam school administrator about that district’s resource officer, and the administrator praised the program.
“He (the SRO) nips a lot of the problems in the bud before they even get going. He said there’s a major decrease in problems because he’s there and talks to the kids,” he said.
Mayor Dan Hall asked if the officer could go into St. Mary’s-St. Alphonsus School or Abraham Wing School.
Jenkins said he has not had those conversations. Hall said he would reach out to officials at those schools.