Montrose board continues weighing SRO options

Once again, Montrose Area School Board members discussed bringing the School Resource Officer program, offered through the Susquehanna County District Attorney’s office, to the district.

School director Gretchen Backer met with several SROs working in neighboring schools, and compiled a list of duties and services they can provide in the districts.

Pamela Staats, a Montrose board member and an Elk Lake administrator, reassured other Montrose Area school directors that administrators remain “in charge, not the SRO. They never take over the administration’s role. It’s a good program,” she said.

Paul Adams offered that his main concern was spending district funds that are already at a deficit for a resource officer but offered he is considering it in case there is a time when a person walks into a school building.

Adams did say he liked that the SROs are local, and that the program is run through the local DA’s office, but said he thought the board should acknowledge potential downsides.

Backer reminded him that the district can get out of the contract at any time.

Staats said that administrators would be the ones to determine how the program was implemented in the schools.

School director John Wood said he still had concerns over the contract language that states that criminal charges could be filed against a student by an SRO.

Mary Homan, board president, said she has been in favor of adding the SRO program “since day one.”

“I put safety way above money,” Homan offered.

School director Gloria Smith questioned the list of duties and services SROs in other districts are providing and whether they could protect the schools while doing the other tasks.

“The whole goal is they protect the school all day long. If they are involved in so many other things, what’s the difference?” Smith questioned.

Backer said SROs in other districts are outfitted with radios and will immediately respond when necessary,

Superintendent Chris McComb said he is concerned that Montrose Area is the only district in the area lacking a deterrent. Four districts in the county (Blue Ridge, Elk Lake, Forest City and Mountain View) participate in the SRO program, and Susquehanna Community contracts with the Lanesboro Police Dept. for daily coverage.

 McComb offered that the SRO could play an important role in the school safety plan, and offered another “set of eyes” with specialized training that could look for risks and vulnerabilities in the buildings.

Jordan said, “It sould like the consensus is that it’s a good idea,” adding the board needed to talk about the number of resource officer positions it would look to add.

Wood said that he was still against the program. “I do not want law enforcement mixed in with a public school,” he said.

Smith said she would rather spend the funds on training teachers, staff and substitutes, and outfit every entry and exit with alarms and cameras.

The board is looking for public input on the School Resource Officer program, the district plans to send out a one-call that directs people to the district website where contact information for board members will be listed.

Board members also noted they wished to wait until the entire board was present before taking a vote on the SRO program.

The topic will likely be revisited at the May 13 board meeting.

High School Principal Eric Powers presented the board with changes being made to the course selection guide for the coming school year.

Additions include a course in advanced accounting, along with a cyber security class.

Two exploratory Project Lead the Way classes will be offered in 45-day rotations at the seventh and eighth grade levels. Those courses, Powers said, will help pave the way to add an engineering tract in the future at the high school.

A career exploratory course will also be added in the 45-day rotation for eighth graders.

The high school math curriculum is receiving an overhaul, with some seventh grade students taking a pre-algebra class that will set them up for an advance math tract in high school.

Jordan congratulated Powers and curriculum director Christine Rosenkrans on the new math sequencing. “I’m thrilled to see this kind of sequence,” he said. “If you pull this off, we can assure kids will be getting a prep school education in a public school setting.”

Rosenkrans said, “We are trying to do it in a way so we can do it well.” She said complimented the math department as being “true professionals” and thanked them for their input with the changes.

In the business meeting, the board adopted a resolution supporting statewide reforms on key issues impacting school budgets, such as the underfunding of PSRS, rising cyber-charter tuition costs, and the lack of basic education school funding.

The board also appointed Harrison Williams as the head girls’ soccer coach beginning with the fall season.

The school calendar was revised with June 4 and 6 as regular full days of school; June 7 with an 11:30 a.m. early dismissal and the last day of school for students and teachers. Graduation will be held on Saturday, June 8, 11 a.m.

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