PORT BYRON — Parents and representatives from the Port Byron Central School District asked the village board to renew the school resource officer's contract during a regular meeting Monday.
Port Byron's meeting room was filled with people who wanted to speak during the public-to-be-heard portion. The support for the SRO comes after the district announced that its attempts to engage the village to make updates to its SRO contract were ignored.
The Port Byron Central School District has grown increasingly concerned over what it feels i…
The school district currently pays school resource officer Frank Ryan directly. The Cayuga County Civil Service Commission has since asked the district and the village to change the current arrangement, which is set to expire June 30, so that the village pays the officer. The commission reported to village Mayor Ron Wilson that the school never reported having an SRO, which meant the district wasn't complying with civil service rules.
"It was the school that screwed up," Wilson said Monday, "and then we get blamed for it."
Wilson said that he doesn't like the idea of the village having the liability of supporting a cop that the district, not the village, is in charge of. He noted other school districts in the county, such as Cato-Meridian and Moravia, have instead opted to have a school security officer which can be employed by the district directly and leave the village out of the equation.
The issue with an SSO, school district attorney Matthew Fletcher said, is that the person wouldn't have peace officer status like an SRO does.
"It provides a higher level of security for public school districts. The school has always relied upon the police officer status."
On behalf of the school district, Fletcher asked that the village board renew the contract, but "change the funding process whereby the person be on the village payroll, but the school would reimburse the village for all of the costs associated with doing that."
He told Wilson he didn't believe the concern of liability was "that meaningful of an issue," adding that — as in the existing contract — "if the SRO does something wrong, that's going to be on the school."
Parents and others affiliated with the school also expressed their hope that the village renew the contract.
"The perceived animosity between the village and the school needs to be shut out of this conversation," said Angelee Hitchcock, a parent, teacher and union president. "We need to move forward with the safety of the children in mind. That is the only goal. And what best serves them seems to be to continue the agreement the village and the school district have had."
Paige Williams, a district music teacher, said a student expressed to her that people like officer Ryan are hard to come by.
"We don't need just anyone, we specifically need Frank Ryan," she said.
Tracy Bozeat, a parent and an employee at the Child Advocacy Center, said that Port Byron has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the county and the school needs all the resources possible.
She said Ryan is not only "amazing to work with," but noted he is "highly trained in de-escalation," which is what the school needs.
"Kids are involved. ... Sometimes we just need to swallow our pride," Hitchcock said.