Liz Armstrong’s lead piece in your last issue left me none the wiser as to why Haldane Gets SRO as County Seeks to Cut Program Costs. Not the reporter’s fault: none of the responsible parties seem able to articulate a good, compelling reason to bring an armed sheriff’s deputy, the School Resource Officer, onto the Haldane campus for 10 months, at a cost of — will it be $55,000, or $77,110, or? (Never mind, we’ll know when the contract comes in.)
Adding to the befuddlement that seems to be at work all around is the decision of the school district to approve the new SRO and the cost thereof at the same time the Putnam County legislature is agitating for reducing its share of funding for the SRO program, a program which, according to county officials, will be costing more “in the near future.”
But surely, whatever the cost, the added value of having a School Resource Officer on campus will be worth it, no? Haldane Superintendent Diana Bowers says that the SRO is “seen as a support, a confidant,” and is primarily employed “for health and safety reasons.” Oh, like a nurse, or a counselor, or a principal, a teacher, a responsible adult, right? And, according to Dr. Bowers, the new SRO, Paul Piazza, has loads of experience, and knows “what it means to be an SRO.” Well, at a total cost of $90,777, salary and benefits, per annum, that should be a minimum qualification.
And what will Haldane students, teachers, administrators, parents, and taxpayers get for this investment? Again, according to Dr. Bowers, an SRO typically deals with “more day-to-day problems,” like child custody disputes, intruders on school grounds, etc. The Putnam County Sheriff, Donald Smith, says that his deputies assisted Haldane with 287 events over a two-year period. While not all these “events” were drug-related, he didn’t say how many of them were child custody disputes or school intruders.
Fortunately for the reader, reporter Armstrong finally tracked down someone who was willing to talk turkey. County Legislator Dini LoBue says her only interest is the county budget, not the school budget. “If they (schools) want a private police force, it’s up to them, it’s within their discretion. This comes at a very expensive cost…”