Board approves resolution to add School Resource Deputy to staff

The following letter from Superintendent Jesse Coburn was sent to staff and district families on Friday, Oct. 28.

At Monday night’s meeting, the Board of Education passed a resolution to add a School Resource Officer (SRO) position to our staff. The board’s decision was based on a review of research regarding SROs, as well as feedback from our school community via an online survey.  Several positions fall under the category of SRO, and the specific title to fill the role at Heuvelton Central School is School Resource Deputy (SRD).

Given the timing of police academy training sessions, a district must request an SRD prior to the winter police academy in order to have a full-time officer on site for the following September. I understand that this does not address people’s more immediate desire to have an SRD on-site, and I am currently in conversation with the County Sheriff’s office about that. I am hopeful we will be able to secure an SRD at Heuvelton on a part-time or full-time basis prior to September 2023, but that is based on the County Sheriff’s Office staffing levels and scheduling. I will keep you posted as additional information is available.

Through the survey responses and in conversations within the community, we have heard a great deal of support for this position. When asked about the benefits of added security personnel, members of our school community expressed sentiments like “safety,” “security” and “peace of mind”. A number of survey respondents noted the positive relationship students could build with a representative of law enforcement. Others felt an SRD would be a deterrent to negative behaviors in school and would allow for quicker response to incidents in school. 

When prompted in the survey to share their concerns, people asked if the SRD‘s role would be clearly defined. Others questioned whether the SRD would take a balanced approach to his or her work – not too authoritative but not too friendly – and if it might be unsettling for students to have a police officer present in the building. Survey participants also questioned whether the district could support the long-term expense of this position.

ROLE OF AN SRO

In a school setting, an SRD is actively involved in both prevention and intervention. In addition to enforcing New York State laws – for example, truancy, which has a direct impact on school attendance – the SRD can help educate school staff members and students on best safety practices. An SRD also works with the district on school safety plans. In addition, he or she can provide mentoring and guidance for students, and can help families obtain assistance and resources they need.

The county asks for a minimum two-year commitment to the SRD program, and during that time the school pays costs associated with salary, benefits and training. The annual cost can range from $90,000 to $130,000. The Heuvelton position will be funded for two years with federal aid money. I am hopeful that we can sustain the position in future years through additional grant funding and/or our general budget.

During Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, New York State Trooper School and Community Outreach Coordinator James D’Ambro gave a brief presentation to the board on how his organization supports school safety efforts. Trooper D’Ambro is a valuable resource for the district, and we are grateful for the positive working relationship that exists between our staff and local law enforcement.

SAFETY MEASURES 

At Monday night’s board meeting, I also shared some of the steps the district has taken and will take to provide enhanced safety measures at our school. These include:

  • We will maintain an overnight presence at the school by shifting custodial staff to be on-site during the overnight hours until an alarm system is installed and fully functional.
  • Local law enforcement will provide increased patrols and a presence on/around the campus.
  • This summer, we worked with Day Automation on the design of a comprehensive Emergency Notification System for our school. This system, approved at the September Board meeting, will connect displays and speakers in every room with remote access.  The system integrates with our motion-activated cameras to provide immediate notice and initiate law enforcement response when the cameras are activated. We anticipate installation of the system will be complete in December. 
  • In light of recent events, we met with Day Automation to inquire about more immediate solutions. The security company designed an independent motion-detection system with immediate alerts to law enforcement, with installation scheduled to start imminently.
  • We continue to remind staff to be vigilant in closing and locking internal and external doors, and we require consistent use of ID badges for staff to enter the building.
  • In addition to our use of ID badges for staff building access, in late September we started the use of the Raptor Identification system, which allows us to more carefully screen and track visitors to our building.

In addition, our Building Condition Survey is currently underway. Every five years, school districts are required by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to complete a Building Condition Survey. The Building Condition Survey is designed for schools to partner with an architect to identify infrastructure items in need of improvement. The results of this report will be the foundational planning document for the next capital project.  

Department heads are providing feedback, incorporating ideas from staff, and also from the District Safety Team. We expect to have a summary of findings from the Building Conditions Survey in early 2023.

As always, the safety of our staff and students is our number one priority. I understand that recent incidents have been unsettling, but I am confident the steps we are taking will continue to make Heuvelton Central School the safest place possible for staff to work and students to learn and grow.

I want to again thank law enforcement for their quick response and tremendous support in keeping our school safe. I also want to thank our staff for the exceptional effort they put forth every day to help students feel safe and cared for. And finally, thank you to our families. It truly does “take a village” to help our children navigate the challenging world we live in. I know that together, we are stronger and better equipped to do that job well, and a constructive dialogue moves us further in that direction each and every day. 

Regards,

Jesse Coburn
Superintendent of Schools