Valley Central security plans move forward

By Kerry Butrick Dowling
Posted 8/10/22

With the 2022-2023 school year slated to commence in just under a month, Valley Central School District officials and local municipalities are moving ahead with a security plan to have police …

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Valley Central security plans move forward

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With the 2022-2023 school year slated to commence in just under a month, Valley Central School District officials and local municipalities are moving ahead with a security plan to have police officers stationed in every school building when the school year begins. The partnership, in addition to the newly-created Director of Safety and Emergency Preparedness position, will assure security is at the forefront when it comes to opening building doors this September.

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, the school board approved the appointment of Stephen Ragni as Director of Security for the district, effective August 9.

Ragni, a Marine Veteran, has been a member of the Town of Montgomery Police Department since 2011. He also has 12 years experience with the FBI, 20 years with the Town of Haverstraw Police and a stint in the security detail of the U.S. Naval Headquarters in London.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Bellarosa expressed his sincere thanks to all parties working together to make the proposed plan come to fruition. Bellarosa has met with representatives from each of the municipalities that encompass the Valley Central School District, including the villages of Walden and Montgomery and the Town of Newburgh, where the East Coldenham Elementary School is located.

Last Thursday, the Montgomery Town Board approved the creation of 11 new part-time police officer positions at a rate of $30.53 per hour. Town Supervisor Brian Maher said the 11 officers will also be equipped and permitted to patrol.

“At this point we are moving forward to make sure we are prepared before school starts,” Town of Montgomery Police Chief of Police John Hank said. “The towns of Montgomery and Newburgh are working towards an agreement to have a Town of Montgomery Officer cover the East Coldenham Elementary School. I can’t speak for the other municipalities’ plans. We will be prepared to have an officer in as many schools as needed when school starts.”

While the Town of Montgomery is prepared to provide officers for the seven schools in the district (Valley Central High School, Middle School, Berea Elementary, East Coldenham Elementary, Walden Elementary, Montgomery Elementary and the learning center at Maybrook), Maher said the town will respect whatever decision the school district makes with the other municipalities. Several have expressed a preference to have their own officers in their neighborhood schools.

Village of Montgomery Mayor L. Stephen Brescia confirmed that a draft agreement was submitted to the school district’s attorney with regard to Village of Montgomery plans.

Montgomery Elementary School is the only school that falls under the Village of Montgomery lines and if possible village officials would like their officers to cover the school. At this time, Brescia said two Village of Montgomery officers are being trained for the role and will be ready by September in the event that all parties agree on the proposed agreement.

Village of Walden officers have also expressed a preference to have their own officer in Walden Elementary School, as well as Most Precious Blood School. Walden Police have completed safety plans for the schools in the village and also the major employers, according to Village Manager John Revella.

The Newburgh Town Board tabled a planned discussion of an inter-municipal agreement with the Town of Montgomery that was scheduled for Monday night. The board is expected to consider the proposal at a work session later this month.

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