In a split 5-4 decision, at the April 14th Work Session Meeting, the Octorara Area School Board of Directors has voted to reject the $40,000 grant from Pennsylvania for a Police Officer on campus. Those voting no to the grant included Lisa Bowman, Brian Norris, Sheri Melton, Shawna Johnson, and myself.
However, those rejecting the grant were not all of one mind on their reasoning. The opinions ranged from that of Brian Norris, who saw the grant as forcing a vote the Board was not yet prepared for, to that of Sheri Melton who expressed concerns about unintended consequences. Several members, myself included, were also concerned that Armed Security takes very limited funds away from much needed security infrastructure upgrades, while creating a program that was not financially sustainable over the long term.
However, the biggest issues seemed to be:
- The grant ties the District’s hands into one option. While much of the grant left things undefined, the grant was specifically for a Police Officer (not a School Resource Office or Security Officer) who was an Independent Contractor, and retired Police or Military.
- There was no specific job description.
- It would have required the creation of the Octorara Area School District Police Department, which had not been mapped out, and which we have no idea what the consequences that action will cause.
- It removes the ability of other options, including contracting with a local Police Department or hiring as a District employee.
- The District would only be able to spend about $10,000, returning $30,000, with no guarantee of additional funds next year. Yet, it obligated the District to continue the program for 2 years.
- Overall, the grant just did not give the District adequate time to perform due diligence.
The Board has instructed Dr. Newcome to move forward on this Action Timeline:
- April 15-29 — Survey Tool placed online to be completed.
- May 7 — Community Conversation
- May 19 — Oral Report to Board Directors regarding Feedback On Community Conversation
- June 9 — Board Discussion and Superintendent Recommendation
- June 16 — Budget Vote
- No Vote on Security Officer – Remove $80,000 from Safety Budget
- Yes Vote – Will require a second Action Item to provide Superintendent with direction on type of officer to be funded.
- Armed Officer/Unarmed Officer
- School Resource Officer
- School District Employee/Outsourced to local PD or Vendor
- June 17-July 7 — Superintendent develops Plan Recommendation/Job Description
- July 21 — Board approves Plan Recommendation/Job Description
- Aug 18 — Board approves hiring/contract
Interestingly enough, there was an explicit statement, made by a grant supporter, that those who voted against this did so for political reasons, and that Liberal or Progressive biases played some part. Sheri Melton, probably one of the most Conservative members of the Board, took exception to the characterization stating she just had a different opinion and came to a different conclusion.
I’m not sure how abortion or Conservative values became part of the dialogue, and while School Director is a non-political position, for the record, I am…
☑ Pro-Second Amendment
☑ Fiscally Conservative
☑ Limited Government advocate
Some may classify me as a Libertarian Republican, because I don’t believe in social policies that encroachment on individual liberty. I believe that one person’s rights end where another begins, and government has no business legislating things that are clearly a personal freedom issue. However, Armed Security is not a Republican vs Democrat, or Liberal vs Conservative issue.
Having gotten that out of the way, my opinion is an armed person adds an element of risk and danger to our children greater than the likelihood there will ever be a shooter at one of our schools.
We know, during a given school year, there will be on average 3 school shootings every month… every month!! That is scary!! It becomes more so the way these events are exploited by news organizations.
However, we also know that schools are safe places, probably the safest place for a child to be, and the vast majority of schools will never directly experience a shooting. You don’t hear that on the evening news.
Any violent death is unacceptable, but we must try to keep everything in perspective. School associated violent deaths are at a rate of 1 per 2.7 Million students per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Even as a representation of all violent deaths for school aged children, those that are school associated are only between 1% & 2% which includes suicides.
Children are at a greater risk of being hit by lighting… which, according to the National Weather Service, is 1 in 700,000 for any given year, and 1 in 5,000 over his/her entire lifetime. I don’t say this to belittle tragedies, but to place the reality of school violence in perspective.
It is not the Wild West out there, even outside of schools, but you wouldn’t know it from the Google News feed. A recent Pew Research report cited FBI statistics showing a steep drop in the incidence of violent crime, and the lowest rates in more than four decades. My opinion is we need to place into perspective the difference between possibility and probability.
I believe our limited tax dollars would be better spent on school culture programs (ie anti-drug, anti-bullying, & such) and security infrastructure. Prevention is, from my point of view, the greater return on investment.
In other news…
Overshadowed by the Security Grant talks was Daniel Carsley’s Budget update. An additional $500,000 has been added to the the 2014-15 Draft Budget to cover new costs and newly discovered increases to items such as the hiring of new Instructional Assistants, projected increases to Healthcare, Workers’ Comp, Charter School Tuition, and other items.
Out of the Facilities Committee, there will also be an additional $120,000 added to the budget for recommended items from the Long Range Plan, and $1.4 Million added (but taken from the Capital Fund) for building improvements and upgrades.
The Board was presented with a cut list, which was asked for at the last Finance Committee Meeting. Some items that could be cut to save the District money include the elimination of Kindergarten, reduction in teaching staff, elimination of the Summer Reading Program, and more. Lisa Bowman stated in the meeting, “The list shows how little is left to cut, and we are bare bones.”
Next week, the Board will be voting to approve the resolution for the Proposed Final General Fund Budget for the 2014-15 school year.