State trooper in school

New York State Police Trooper Dave Worden, left, and school resource officer Frank Ryan visit with students at Dana L. West Jr.-Sr. High School in Port Byron Sept. 6, 2018.

The Port Byron Central School District has grown increasingly concerned over what it feels is a lack of response from the village government regarding a school resource officer contract, while the village feels the district is trying to rush the matter.

District Superintendent Neil O'Brien said Friday the district has had two different officers in the halls over the last five years, with Frank Ryan serving as the latest. The district pays Ryan directly, according to the current agreement. The current contract for Ryan — a retired state trooper currently with the Port Byron Police Department — expires June 30.

O'Brien said that the village clerk asked the Cayuga County Civil Service Commission about how Ryan is paid, and the commission asked the district and village to change the arrangement to have the district send payments to the village, which would then pay Ryan. O'Brien said that since the district would be covering the payments, this change would not affect the agreement on a fundamental level.

But, O'Brien said, the district's attempts to engage the village about the arrangement — including district representatives appearing at a village Board of Trustees meeting March 11 — have been ignored.

A petition on the situation has been circulating in the community, O'Brien said. A post on the district's Facebook page is imploring people to call the mayor or attend the next village board meeting. He said the student body has embraced Ryan during his time with the district, adding that students have taken to both Ryan and the feeling of security his presence brings.

"We have yet to have any clear indication that the village is going to move on the issue," O"Brien said.

But village Mayor Ron Wilson painted a different picture Friday, saying he feels the village is being pressured by the district to comply with an agreement board members haven't seen yet.

In February, Ryan asked village clerk Caitlin Bacon questions "related to civil service," Wilson said, and because Bacon didn't know the answer, she contacted the commission. Wilson said the commission said the district had never reported having an SRO, and that the district wasn't complying with civil services rules.

Wilson said he feels the district's public communications on the SRO situation are spreading misinformation and that the district is "trying to arouse public opinion against us." He said he received the proposed agreement Friday. Before any decisions would be made, Wilson said, the board have to discuss it. Wilson said he personally feels determining the village's budget outweighs SRO concerns at the moment due to budget deadlines that have to be met.

"The school is drumming up the public and making the village look like the bad guy," Wilson said.

O'Brien said the district originally preferred the same kind of payment system that's outlined in the proposed new agreement when the original agreement was being hashed out five years ago. He didn't dispute that the district wasn't compliant, but said he believes the commission's concern lies with making sure Ryan is paid like a village employee.

Michael Russell, human resources administrator with the Cayuga County government, said the commission hopes to get both parties in the same room soon to work things out.

"I understand there are issues between parties, and I understand there are things going back and forth and people aren't getting along, and I feel badly about that, but our interest is, what is the compliance with the law?" Russell said.

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Staff writer Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or kelly.rocheleau@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.