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School resource officer might be needed, but can it be paid for?



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

GREENFIELD — A proposal by the mayor and police chief for more Greenfield school resource officers might get hung up this year because of dollars and cents.

Two additional school resource officers could, according to Police Chief Robert Haigh, likely cost $220,000 the first year, including startup costs, and then level out closer to $120,000 a year.

While Mayor William Martin, who mentioned this proposal to the City Council this month, and Superintendent Jordana Harper are mostly in favor of the idea, it’s a question of cost and potential grant opportunities to pay for the additional officers.

The discussion came up after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

“Could we benefit from more school resource officers? I think we could,” Harper said. “At the same time, we have several needs that we’re going to be balancing in this budget cycle.” There could be grant opportunities to pay for something like this, but at the moment, there aren’t any concrete proposals of outside revenue sources.

“We do the best we can with what we have,” Haigh said. “If we want more resources, we have to figure out a way to fund them.”

Currently, Greenfield High School has one school resource officer, who is dressed in plain clothes. The discussion of additional officers comes at a moment when local budgets have already been drafted around tight constraints.

“In the timeline, it’s difficult to have a really robust conversation about some of these topics,” School Committee Chairwoman Adrienne Nunez said.

Nunez cautioned that the answer might not just be additional school resource officers, noting the need to also support services in the school like guidance counselors and special education. She’s concerned that when the School Committee looks to re-examine its budget, it might come down to comparing the merit of one line item to another.

“This is an incredibly difficult conversation, partly because of that and partly because I don’t believe we are going to solve school safety by addressing one part of it and not a whole comprehensive approach to it,” Nunez said.

The school’s budget, which did not include any teacher cuts, will be addressed at a public hearing at 6:30 tonight at Greenfield High School. This will be the public’s first opportunity to share thoughts on the idea of adding school resource officers. Before that, there’s a 5 p.m. special public safety meeting at the Greenfield Police Department.

The money for additional school resource officers, assigned to the middle school and elementary schools, could come, at least primarily, from the police budget. Currently, the school pays $30,000 of the roughly $70,000 salary, including benefits, of the current school resource officer, Haigh said.

Regardless of the outcome, Nunez said she values the conversations that are being had right now.

“I really want to express appreciation for the coordinated effort. There’s a lot of back and forth between the superintendent and Chief Haigh and the fire chief,” Nunez said. “I appreciate living in a community where we can all work together for the benefit of everybody.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264