After a ten-year hiatus and a lengthy period in review, the Highland School Board voted to bring back the Student Resource Officer [SRO] program for the 2022-23 school year, according to Lloyd Police Chief James Janso.
Janso said the administration and the school board are, “fully on board. We had several meetings over the valuable resource it brings with it and I think the turning point was when the community came out the night it was on the agenda in June and voiced their opinion in support of the program being put back in place.”
Janso feels the SRO program has become even more relevant today because of the uptick in violence locally in schools in the Hudson Valley.
“Arlington had a murder, Poughkeepsie with all the fights and Roosevelt with the fights, it’s part of our lives now so it was time to have that conversation [with Highland] in some form or fashion,” he said. “I sat down with my budget to see what I had and talked with town board members about doing it on a part-time basis to get it up and running. It was a soft approach and it wasn’t like we were taking over the school or forcing it on them, as it is their business. I wanted to bring it to them and say that things happen and we’ve got to start planning for the future.”
Janso acknowledged that the program may not be popular with everyone, “but at the end of the day my job is to safeguard the community and that means the children in the schools and the faculty and staff. So if I can do something to bring that to light, I’m going to do it. That’s why I was so passionate about trying to get this passed and approved. It took a while and the school board acted in the best interests of the community and the students. They heard the voices of the parents and employees of the school, and the school board all voted in favor of it.”
Janso said Brian Scott has been designated as the SRO Officer and will divide up his three days between the high school, elementary and the middle school.
Janso said he has had some preliminary discussions with the town and school about creating three full time positions, one for each school, “but it’s not a quick process to budget for that.” He said this would involve not only salaries for the officers, but also benefits, equipment and vehicles, estimating that a price tag could top $200,000 annually.
“There are different scenarios that we can discuss as far as sharing expenses, and there are grants that the school and the police can look for,” he said. “We can sit down and hash out a game plan on how we want to go forward. It’s not an overnight process but a long term project that you’re investing in.”
The present SRO contract is for a single, part time floating officer, that will expire in June 2023. The police department will pay for the officer through December 31, 2022, and starting in January, the Highland school district will cover the expenses through June 2023.
“Between now and June we have that time frame to sit down and realistically look at finances on where do we want to be in a year and in two years, but you couldn’t do that without the SRO program actually up and running,” Janso said. “There are many avenues that we can look into, but it will take meetings and logistical planning.”