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Chatham school board debates more hours for deputy

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CHATHAM–Members of the Chatham school board continued last week to discuss the budget for the next school year.  Much of the discussion revolved around whether to make the position of school resource deputy (SRD) a full-time position rather than its current part-time classification.

SRDs, also referred to as school resource officers, are police officers in schools to ensure students and faculty are safe and to educate kids about safety.

Chatham’s current SRD, Ian Boehme, came on board in August 2017 and divides his time between the Chatham and New Lebanon school districts. Chatham’s deputy is provided by the Sheriff’s Office at no additional cost, but creating a full-time position would add $40,000 to the school district’s budget.

“I don’t necessarily want this proposal to just be about someone who can potentially respond quicker to a traumatic event,” said district Superintendent Salvatore DeAngelo. “The SRD is just one more prong in building relationships with students, in hopes that it will prevent these tragedies from actually occurring.”

In Columbia County, three other school districts already have full-time resource officers, and by next year, all except Chatham will be on board with the concept. School Principals Kristen Reno, Michael Burns and John Thorsen all expressed their support of the current SRD in Chatham’s school buildings.

“He’s a valued member of the faculty,” said Mrs. Reno. She went on to say that not only is he a friendly face in the school for students to see, but he’s also actively keeping kids safe, through teaching them about cyberbullying, cyber safety, and even lessons on strangers, for elementary school students.

The board student representative, senior Gabriela Neven, said that students in the high school really like having an SRD. “Not only does he make students feel safer, it’s a nice friendly face to see in the hallway, and we feel he really cares about us.”

The general response to the full-time position was positive from the board, but with some misgivings from board members.

“Could we take $40,000 and get a guidance counselor who would give us more bang for our buck?” asked Rachel Galvin. “Since he’s already doing this at no cost to our district, if we’re going to spend an additional $40,000 is a police officer the right thing to do for what we want him to do?”

No consensus was reached by the end of the March 27 meeting; and budget discussions will continue for the next few weeks as the budget is finalized.

In other news from the board meeting, a new video was created by the school district to show the public what the upcoming Capital Project is all about. This video is available on the school district’s website, as well as on the Facebook page, and goes into detail as to what repairs need to be made at school buildings.

The next Board of Education meeting will take place on April 10, at 6 p.m. in the high school library.

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