About 30 parents, community members, school staff and board members discuss school safety and armed officer at forum
Wednesday, February 7, 2018 - 9:10 am

POTSDAM — Around 30 people attended a PTSA sponsored community forum on school safety at A.A. Kingston Middle School Tuesday evening.

The forum began with a review of the district’s mission, vision, and core beliefs, which according to Superintendent Joann Chambers guide all decisions made by the district.

Details regarding the potential position of a School Resource Officer (SRO) are still being discussed, researched, and considered by the Board of Education, including whether or not the officer would wear a uniform, or be armed while at school. According to Chambers, the Board of Education will continue to conduct these types of forums to allow community members to ask questions and share their opinions on the matter.

“School safety is something we take very seriously, and we believe a proactive response is always preferable to a reactionary one when it comes to the safety of our students and staff,” said Chambers. “We are responsible for the safety of 1,300 students and over 200 staff members in our district, and that is something I think about each and every day.”

Middle School Principal and District Safety Committee Chair Dan Cook then gave an overview of the various committees, plans, and reviews associated with school safety, including an external school safety audit, which was recently conducted. High School Principal Mark Bennett followed by explaining several safety measures already in place in the district, including camera systems, secure entry, hallway signs and mapping, and emergency alert strobes.

According to Elementary Principal Jennifer Gray, a large part of ensuring school safety is focusing on emotional and social wellbeing. Gray provided an outline of various resources and initiatives in place including student support teams, therapeutic crisis intervention, school counselors, and student support teams.

Chambers explained to the group that one additional safety measure being discussed by the Board of Education is the hiring of a School Resource Officer (SRO). According to Chambers, the idea for this position came from a Board of Education member who is acquainted with a former SRO.

Chambers outlined the potential job description for an SRO, and shared that she had recently met with Malone Central School District Superintendent Jerry Griffin to discuss his experience with an SRO on the Malone campus.

A discussion regarding the hiring of an SRO ensued. Some community members spoke in support of the idea, and some expressed concern or raised questions.

One question asked more than once was whether the idea to hire an SRO is in response to an existing issue. Chambers says it is part of the district’s proactive approach to school safety.

Many community members in attendance spoke about their own personal experiences with school resource officers, and explained how the SRO can establish a personal relationship with students who may be struggling.

Chambers reiterated that in her conversation with Malone’s superintendent, one statement stood out to her. “A school resource officer’s only concern every single day is the safety of our school. They are dedicated to that purpose.”

The board has not yet made a decision about whether or not to establish this position and the gathering of community feedback is an important step in their decision-making.

The district would need to enter into a contract with the Village of Potsdam, and has not yet made a formal request to do so. Finally, the district would need to be in a position to add the estimated $30,000 cost of the position to the 18-19 budget. At this point it is too early to tell if that will be feasible.

For more information about Potsdam Central School District, visit www.potsdam.k12.ny.us.