The Wallkill School District made student safety a priority over the summer when it expanded its School Resource Officer (SRO) and School Patrol Officer (SPO) programs to every building in the district. And at a Board of Education meeting on Dec. 20 at Leptondale Elementary, officials from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department reported that the initiative is running smoothly since it began this fall.
Assistant Undersheriff Anthony Weed noted during the meeting that since Wallkill Superintendent Kevin Castle reached out to the agency over the summer to bolster its police presence in district schools, the program has quickly been implemented in Wallkill schools. “We were contacted back in August after the Parkland shooting down in Florida,” Weed explained. “We were just starting our program, and we’re now in 15 campuses, and we’ll probably be in 20 campuses by the end of the school year. The program keeps building. So what we wanted to do is put a police officer in the school strictly for force protection. To have that presence, that officer interaction with the students, the staff and just provide that sense of security.”
The district has a trio of inter-municipal agreements with the county department, and the towns of Shawangunk and Plattekill for all three police agencies to provide officers to their local schools, with the county sending SPOs Julius Anglero and Robert Detoro to Leptondale. The deal marked the first time that the district has had an SRO or SPO agreement with the county agency. “This is new, but when I called them in August they had their act together,” Castle said. “Within days I received an agreement and they had a structure in place. That structure is what got us going working with the towns as well. It really worked out very well with all three entities.”
Castle noted that the expanded SRO and SPO program, which allows the district to have a police officer on site at each district school every day, has been a success since its launch in September. “We’re very pleased, and what sticks out for me is the relationships that they’re building with the kids,” he said. “I believe that that’s the key to any sort of SRO or SPO program, is first and foremost the importance the relationship the officers in the building have with our students and the trust that occurs, not only with our students, but our families as well. So I’ve been very pleased with that aspect of the job. Of course there’s also the security that they’re providing for us.”
At the beginning of the meeting, the board gave a commendation to student Isabelle Ferranti, who received the prestigious Young Champion’s Award from the 105th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard during a ceremony on Dec. 2. “We’re proud of Isabelle for the honor she received,” Castle said. “She’s a leader in the building, and we’re very pleased with her accomplishment and I know she has a lot of years of success ahead of her.”
The board also honored the boys JV soccer team for a display of extraordinary sportsmanship for an incident where the team allowed an opposing player from Saugerties with developmental issues to score a goal during the boy’s only opportunity to play in his athletic career. With a comfortable lead on the road in the late-season contest, the Panthers let the Saugerties player, who usually served as the team’s scorekeeper and manager, to receive the ball and take it in for a heartwarming goal.
JV soccer coach Kelly Wood, whose promotion to head the varsity squad was approved by the board on Thursday, said the Panthers players came up with the idea to let the Saugerties player have his moment in the sun. “We had met the boy at the first game when they played at our field when we were the home team,” Wood said. “I got chatting with their coach a little bit, and his take was that he didn’t have enough players to fill his roster and the boy had been the manager the prior season. So not having enough kids to fill the bus, he basically allowed the boy to be on the team. So the kids had asked me before the second game that if he got in could we let him play the ball? They were originally just talking about letting him have some dribble time. So I said of course we could, but we mentioned to them that I didn’t want it to be a forced thing. I kind of wanted it to be natural and let what we going to happen just happen. So (tenth-grader) Mitchell Albrechtsen was kind of the catalyst of making it happen, and he kind of made it known to the Saugerties players as well that ‘hey, let him play.’ It just kind of progressed from there and it turned into a goal and it was a nice thing.”
The player’s father even reached out to Wood after the game to thank Wallkill for their sportsmanship. “I was immensely proud,” Wood said of his team. “As a coach you’re usually proud of their play on the field, but it was a really nice thing.” Castle noted that all Wallkill students receive lessons in grace from early in their careers in the districts. “With all of our students, not only athletes, we talk about the importance of building character and treating each other with kindness,” he said. “That’s embedded in our Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) program. The fact is we start it right in kindergarten instilling these values at an early age. That we see it carrying over on the playing field is very rewarding, and I’m proud of our kids. We have great kids in our school district. I’m very pleased with the way they treat other students and kids from other school districts.”
The JV soccer team each received a certificate of commendation, as James Albanese, Mitchell Albrechtsen, Salvatore Bordone, Anthony Carvalho, Brian Cross, Ty Crowley, Marcus Decoeur, Luke Diemoz, Reid Estes, Carson Frisbie, Julian Gries, Nicholas Guerra, Trevor Jones, Dylan Jowell, Christopher LoCicero, Colin McCartney, Justin McLaughlin, Brandon Ortiz, Dominic Pelella, Cristo Trujillo, Miguel Trujillo and Tyler Tucker were all honored for their act of kindness.