School board moves ahead with school resource officer plan

The Champlain Valley School District’s school board has preliminarily OK’d district administrators to begin searching for a school resource officer.

It’s more involved than just posting the job.

First, district administrators have to choose which law enforcement agency will provide the officer. Once they reach an agreement with a police department, the school board would need to approve the contract.

“We just need to see the head nods so we know we aren’t wasting our time this summer,” Superintendent Elaine Pinckney said to board members, referring to how school administrators wanted to know from the board that they were all in agreement on the process to search for a school resource officer.

Three towns that feed into Champlain Valley Union have police departments – Williston, Shelburne and Hinesburg. They could be potential partners for the school district. Another option is the Chittenden County Sheriff’s Department, which has a school resource officer contract position with Mount Mansfield Modified Union School District.

The administration sees the resource officer splitting time approximately 80-85 percent at the high school and 15-20 percent in the community schools, Pinckney said, reporting back to the board after talking with all the administrators.

Board members seemed in agreement that the best-case scenario would be for the police officer to be able to go back into their regular police agency when they are not working at the schools.

A school resource officer would be employed by the police department, which would contract with the school district for coverage during the 175 to 180 days of the school year.

School administrators said their top choice would be to contract with the Hinesburg Police Department, because Champlain Valley Union High School is located in Hinesburg. Police department resources would be closer to where the officer is stationed, they said.

However, the school board does not expect to pay for the officer’s time outside the school year, meaning the officer’s police department would have to kick in some of the salary for an officer.

Board Vice Chair Colleen MacKinnon,  a Hinesburg resident, noted that on Town Meeting Day, Hinesburg Police Chief Frank Koss said no additional staffing was needed at the police department.

“My concern is the perception of imposition on the town of Hinesburg for the non-school days,” MacKinnon said, “because I don’t see our school board supporting a salary for someone to be serving as a police officer at town events.”

Moving forward over the summer, administrators will be working with different law enforcement departments to find the best fit of a department that could afford to partner with the school.

Once a contract is in place, the school district and police department will work together to form a team of “stakeholders,” said CVU Principal Adam Bunting.

The team will be comprised of community members from the school district, teachers, students, and police officers from each local department to work on a description of the ideal candidate.

Then the group will advertise the position, and the stakeholders will conduct the first round of interviews, choosing the best candidate to present to the police chief and Bunting. They would then conduct the final interview. Finding the perfect officer for the position is the most important part.

“You wouldn’t want to force an officer into the position who didn’t want to do it,” Bunting said. The officer would have to complete two to three weeks of school resource officer training before stepping into the schools.

Though the goal is to have an officer in schools when students go back in the fall, administrators said they don’t want to rush the process.

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