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Skaneateles BOE 8-14

Kris Kiefer spoke at a Skaneateles Central School District Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

SKANEATELES — The Skaneateles Central School District Board of Education discussed the idea of bringing two school guards back into the district for the 2018-2019 school year.

At its meeting Tuesday, the board talked about reinstating retired New York State troopers James O'Brien and Aileen Sherman after they were brought in as guards in April to work part-time until the end of the school year. After board members talked about the pros and cons of bringing the two back, it opted to discuss the idea at the Aug. 28 meeting with the possibility of approving it. A total of $60,000 is budgeted for the guards' salaries if the jobs are approved.

Superintendent Ken Slentz had previously said he believed bringing O'Brien and Sherman back would be beneficial, though it wasn't his decision. He said he had seen the guards have positive interactions with administrators, staff and students almost on a daily basis and that the two "lowered the temperature on some of the concerns that community members rightfully had."

Board vice president Julie Abbott-Kenan said she advocates for gathering more information before making a decision so as to not undermine the Safe Schools Community Advisory Committee created to give suggestions safety recommendations to the board.

The district created the group in April in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in February and the incident in which the Skaneateles middle and high schools went into a "shelter in place"in March, Slentz said.

The committee — which includes teachers, parents, district administrators, law enforcement personnel, mental health professionals and board of education members — has met three times to discuss different safety options and are set to give their recommendations to the board at a later date.

Abbott-Kenan and other board members said they want to get a better idea of the guards job description — such as training, whether they would be armed, their day-to-day duties — for the job before approving the position. Abbott-Kenan said the guard positions are still on the table. Board member Michael Kell said that when meeting with national mass shooting expert Dr. Jaclyn Schildkraut for a committee meeting, she said school resource officers are helpful with building relationships with students, they are not a permanent solution to safety issues.

The discussion came a day after the Onondaga County School Safety Task Force, created in response to Parkland to create suggestions on school safety issues, released its recommendations. Among them, from the group's law enforcement committee, was the idea that school resource officers "should be the preferred method of providing safety within schools."

After the meeting, Skaneateles safety committee member Kris Kiefer said he was disappointed that the district didn't approve the guards, arguing they were a good way to go since Slentz said he thought Sherman and O'Brien were good for the district and the Onondaga group recommended SROs.

Kell said after the meeting the board was looking at its options.

"What we want to do is make sure we do the right thing, but for the right reasons," Kell 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.

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Education Reporter