Members desire retired or school peace officer

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy Fredonia Board of Education President Michael Bobseine speaks during a recent meeting.

Discussion over a school resource officer Tuesday found Fredonia Board of Education members desiring either a retired officer or a school peace officer to serve the district.

Both options mean the officer would be a district employee and not an employee of a local law enforcement agency.

Fredonia Superintendent Jeffrey Sortisio laid out three options for board members to discuss during the regular board meeting inside the high school library. With the school peace officer and retired police idea also came the traditional model of local law enforcement assigning an officer to the district. It was a model once employed by the district, but members acknowledged they want someone who’s a district employee instead of an officer who’d be employed with a local law enforcement agency.

As for the school peace officer model, Sortisio said the employee would have a two- or four-year degree and a law enforcement certificate through a professional program. The officer would work 10 months out of the year.

In regards to a retired officer, Sortisio said the person would be a district employee earning $30,000 or less per calendar year based on limitations of their retirement. The officer would need to maintain affiliation with some level of local law enforcement and need to establish rapport for communication purposes.

Sortisio said he’s not looking to bring an enforcer into the district who arrests first and ask questions later. More, Sortisio said he’s looking for someone who’s going to work with children and possess skills like de-escalation and advocacy.

“They have a law enforcement role at times,” Sortisio said. “(But) their job is to work with children and get to know children and make those connections through the community and working here for the betterment of all involved.”

In addition to a school resource officer, board members also expressed the need for a social worker and mental health aspect within the district to support students. Dave Giambrone, board member, said he appreciates Sortisio’s new look at it as opposed to models employed in the past. However, Giambrone acknowledged that a social worker and mental health support also need to be addressed.

“We need to be looking at the bigger picture and not have a knee-jerk reaction to hire an SRO,” Giambrone said.

Giambrone also noted that the district would have had an SRO, but the district didn’t reach a contract agreement with the village due to minor things.

“It was very frustrating,” he said.

Daniel Ihasz, board member, said he feels strong about having an SRO in some fashion. However, he said he’d like the board to consider the idea of having an extended role for a social worker.

“If we’re not spending all of the money on a specific person (for SRO), we might have enough to open the door for that,” he said.

Sortisio said administrators are examining what they can do in terms of a social worker as they develop the budget. As for the SRO, the administration will come back to the board with more specifics, such as years of experience the person would need to be considered for the position.

Parents who attended the meeting expressed their appreciation to the board over their discussion and thoughts.