Putnam County Creates School Safety Team

Will spend $2 million of pandemic funds

Putnam County will earmark $2 million for the sheriff and the Department of Social Services to work with superintendents at the county’s school districts, including Haldane and Garrison, on a security review, County Executive MaryEllen Odell announced on Tuesday (June 7).

The county said in a statement that the money will come from the $19.1 million it expects to receive from federal pandemic relief. The funding is being made in response to the killings on May 24 in Uvalde, Texas, and the “endless cycle of school shootings,” the county said.

“We need to acknowledge that school shootings can happen anywhere, even in Putnam, the safest county in the state, and we need to prepare in order to prevent a tragic event from occurring here,” Odell said. “There is no better use for ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] money than to protect our schools and find ways to identify and help students who might be experiencing a mental health crisis before it’s too late.”

The county said its officials will work with superintendents on what Sheriff Kevin McConville called “a critical review and assessment of our schools, safety programs and intervention procedures,” along with “a fresh appraisal of emergency management plans, preparedness and response actions,” including syncing technology between schools and law enforcement.

At the Tuesday (June 7) meeting of the county Legislature, Nancy Montgomery, a Democrat whose district includes Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley, criticized Odell and her Republican colleagues for focusing on mental illness as the cause of mass shootings while she said they had refused her requests to increase funding for such services and would not consider gun-control legislation.

“The Putnam County Executive and the Legislature have failed to significantly increase funding for mental health year after year,” she said. “In fact, they decreased funding in 2021.”

4 thoughts on “Putnam County Creates School Safety Team

  1. I’m pleased that Putnam County issued a press release following my statement at the June full Legislature meeting calling on the administration to provide resources and funding for mental health services.

    I hope the county executive’s statement doesn’t turn out to be like most of the county press releases and remain just that, a press release with no follow-up. No meeting was called or “convened” with districts for this “school” task force. Our local district had not been apprised of any plan or task force. Who is on this team? How will they chart its success? It will be interesting to see how Putnam’s pro-gun administration will roll this out.

    We cannot forget that Sheriff Kevin McConville, County Executive MaryEllen Odell and her presumptive successor, Assembly Member Kevin Byrne, have each been speaking at pro-gun events for years and speaking out against any meaningful gun-safety measures. In the state Assembly, Byrne has consistently voted in line with the positions of the National Rifle Association.

    Putnam County could have taken action and supported Philipstown’s gun-safety proposals years ago. Instead, Republican leaders stood outside of Town Hall and rallied against our efforts to keep guns out of our parks and pre-school. To add insult to injury, the GOP legislators proudly hired a pro-gun “NRA expert” who attempted to stymie our efforts and rewarded him with a permanent taxpayer-funded role as the legislative attorney.

    Is this task force taking cues from the NRA’s own National School Shield Task Force? That dubious plan espouses an end to gun violence in schools using their tried-and-true business model: Sell more guns. They want to normalize an increase of armed security individuals in schools, so their corporate backers can push more guns, ammunition and tactical gear on cash-strapped districts. Their plan even goes so far as to advocate teachers and administrators carry firearms in school. More guns in schools equal more revenue for the people who sell them.

    I’ll remain cautiously optimistic about this “press release” but encourage the public to pay close attention and think critically about who will ultimately benefit.

    Montgomery is a Putnam County legislator whose district includes Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley.

    • Thank you Nancy! You are an inspirational advocate and I, as a mother of two kids at Haldane, am so grateful. I ask that your fellow legislators and officials consider who they represent in this county carefully. It is not gun-rights advocates or the NRA. It is our children. Let’s make sure that they are the ones who benefit.

    • Thank you, Nancy! With only one day left of school, I feel the dread and fear of sending my children to school lifting from my shoulders. We shouldn’t live this way. It’s absolutely insane. Thank you for being brave and protecting your community. [via Facebook]