Saratoga Springs Superintendent Recommends Hiring Additional SRO
In October, the Saratoga Springs City School District board voted to disarm school grounds monitors. The move drew criticism from community members and Second Amendment activists. Last night, the district held a community school safety forum.
A panel discussion on school safety included Saratoga Springs district administrators and staff, members of local law enforcement, and an insurance rep.
Bob Blaisdell of the New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal outlined a recent assessment of the district’s safety and security protocols.
Blaisdell, who has children in the district, says it’s one of the safest he’s seen.
“I think you’ve got a top-tier program with the people that you have in place, and the people and their predecessors, honestly, that put programs in place that make Saratoga City School District one of the top-tier school districts, in my opinion, around the state,” said Blaisdell.
The assessment praised the district’s relationship with local law enforcement and support services.
It recommended hiring an additional School Resource Officer. Currently the district’s sole SRO, an officer with the Saratoga Springs Police Department, works only in schools within city limits.
Saratoga Springs Superintendent Michael Patton announced that he would make the recommendation to the school board to hire an additional SRO.
“We are very, very fortunate that Saratoga Springs Police Department helps support all of our city schools, but jurisdictionally, once you get outside the city limits, it would be us partnering with the Sheriff’s Department. And so that additional school resource officer would be housed at the middle school but would be available to support both Dorothy Nolan and Greenfield Elementary School,” said Patton.
Patton also revealed results of a district-wide school safety survey. While a majority of respondents said they feel welcome at their student’s school, a majority agreed the least with the notion that district schools allow students to feel safe and that student support services, such as mental health and substance abuse counseling, meet their needs.
Patton also acknowledged that there was interest by respondents to authorize certain grounds monitors to carry a firearm. In October, the school board voted to remove firearms from trained grounds monitors, which sparked outcry from some parents and Second Amendment activists.
Former Saratoga Springs Police Chief Ed Moore asked the panel to give their opinion on the guns issue.
“Are we safer right now? Or were we safer before?”
Mark Leffler, head grounds monitor and a retired Saratoga Springs police officer, was hired by the school district in August.
“I don’t carry a weapon here anymore. I’m not allowed to. It would be against the law for me to do that. And I feel that we are less safer,” said Leffler to applause from the audience.
Saratoga Springs Assistant Police Chief John Catone said he thinks the district is less safe now, but had some suggestions – including the hiring of an additional resource officer.
In November, the Saratoga Springs City Council approved a measure that would support city schools by paying some of the salary for an additional SRO.
But, Catone said, that would require the consent of the district.
“Right now I have the city council pushing me for more school resource officers, which we could have in place by February 4th, but it’s tough to spend money on something we that don’t have a commitment for,” said Catone.
Catone said the district could bring on more SRO’s and also rearm grounds monitors, but it’s not the department’s decision.
“What anyone chooses to accept or not accept, we don’t really have any control over that, but we will go as we’re asked or directed to,” said Catone.
Bob Blaisdell praised several safety steps the district has taken, notably having a controlled single point-of-entry and relationship with law enforcement. He weighed in on armed grounds monitors from a liability standpoint.
“You know, as a risk manager, I’m going to lean either way. If you don’t have them, are you still safe? You look pretty good with a school resource officer and the trained staff that you have in place right now,” said Blaisdell.
He said if the district does rearm monitors, several controls would need to be in place.
The superintendent’s recommendation of hiring an additional SRO did not include rearming grounds monitors.