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PORT BYRON — The village of Port Byron spontaneously voted against renewing the school resource officer contract with the Port Byron Central School District Monday night — something the district and parents have been seeking renewal of for weeks.

Unless something changes, June 30 will be SRO Frank Ryan's last day. On March 25, parents and district representatives asked the village to renew the SRO contract. The support for the renewal followed the district's announcement that its attempts to engage the village to make updates to its SRO contract were ignored.

Currently, the school district pays SRO 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 Ronald Wilson that the school never reported having an SRO, which meant the district wasn't complying with civil service rules.

When opening the public to be heard portion of Monday's meeting to about 17 community members, Wilson asked that those with nothing new to add "just keep your mouth shut."

"I would really like to stress that this has turned into a thing about personalities and not really about positions. Really, all that we're asking the village to do is to negotiate with us to approve a position for an SRO for the school district," district Board of Education President Melinda Quanbeck said. "What we need is to be able to reassure that we can protect the students."

If the village isn't willing to negotiate, she said it would still be better for the school to know that so it can come up with a solution. She noted that while the contract doesn't expire until June, it isn't currently operating legally.

"What I find here is disrespect," said parent and school employee JoAnn Mapley. "The fact that you just disregard the safety of our students, my child, so flippantly I don't agree with that."

"Well if you read the Facebook crap that's out there," Wilson said, "it's been insulting to the village, it's been insulting to the village board, it's been insulting to me."

Wilson said nobody has asked to be on the agenda with enough time to do so. He also only got one email asking to have a sit-down meeting to talk about the issue, but said in response to a question that he never replied to the email.

"I'll be here until this is resolved and I'll speak every single time as is my right," said Angelee Hitchcock, a parent, teacher and union president. "This has gotten out of control."

After about 15 minutes of discussion, Board member Jeff Girvin said "we should just end this," then immediately made a motion not to sign the contract with the school for the renewal for the 2019-2020 year. When asked why, he cited liability to the village. Wilson agreed liability was a big concern. 

Board member Patrick Fenton seconded the motion and said he, and all the board, believe there should be an armed officer at the school but that the relationship with the school isn't working. State troopers can get to the school in two minutes, he added.

"The school has tons of options on their own without the village being involved," he said.

Without the village as part of the equation, school district attorney Matthew Fletcher said an officer in the school could carry a gun, but could not "exercise police powers in that capacity."

"Personally, I think the school has been big bullies in this whole thing," Girvin said. "How many times will you constantly use 'the kids, the kids'?"

Board members Mary Jump and Jeffery Emerson both said they were willing to enter negotiations with the school. When it came time to vote on whether or not to renew the contract, Jump and Emerson opposed while Fenton, Girvin and Wilson passed the motion.

"Right now, it's dead," Wilson said in response to a question on if voting to not renew the contract meant that the board was also not interested in negotiating a new contract.

"So if something happens to one of our kids, we can come back and blame it on you? You can live with that on your shoulders?" Kim Blaisdell asked Girvin.

"I got more blood on my hands than you'll ever understand," Girvin replied.

"It would just be really nice to hear from the village that ... it was interested in finding a solution," said Trista O'Hara.

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Staff writer Megan Ehrhart can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or megan.ehrhart@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @MeganEhrhart.

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