HINSDALE, N.H. -- The town's school board and selectmen approved a six-figure grant that will enable Hinsdale Middle/High School to hire a full-time school resource officer.
Hinsdale Police Chief Todd Faulkner was in attendance at Wednesday's school board meeting to explain the $125,000 grant approved by the federal government on Friday, Sept. 27, and he strongly encouraged board members and selectmen, who were at the meeting for a public hearing about the grant, to accept it.
Except for Bernie Rideout, who was absent, the Board of Selectmen voted to accept the grant and the school board did the same, though Angela Schill abstained. The grant, from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office, will last for three years and comes with a 12-month obligation attached. The school resource officer (SRO) position would be funded by the grant for three years, after which its finances would be split between School Administrative Unit (SAU) 92 and the Hinsdale Police Department.
Faulkner explained the SRO would patrol the school and serve as both protection to students and a friendly ear for their problems. He said the officer would be armed at all times and trained how to prepare for and deal with incidences of school violence, such as those in Newtown, Conn., or Columbine High School. The SRO, Faulkner said, also can build relationships with students and help with difficult situations young people are uncomfortable discussing with their parents or teachers.
SAU 92 Superintendent Dr. David Crisafulli spoke in favor of having the program and SAU 94 Superintendent Jim Lewis, attended the meeting with members of the Winchester Withdrawal Committee to discuss the possibility of tuitioning-in high school students from Winchester, threw in his opinion and called it "a no-brainer."
Faulkner told the Reformer months ago the SRO would likely be Officer Wayne Kassotis, who has served on the board of directors for The National Association of School Resource Officers.
The selectmen adjourned their meeting after voting and it soon came time for the withdrawal committee to approach the school board. Lewis said he and Winchester Withdrawal Committee members Rick Horton, Elisha Jackson, Kevin Bazan and Brian Moser are in the embryonic stages of a process to explore the potential to tuition-in students to schools outside of the Keene area, such as Monadnock Regional High School in Swanzey or Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield, Mass.
Horton told school board members it was a monumental meeting, as he heard when he first moved to Winchester that the town and Hinsdale would never be in talks about tuitioning-in high school students.
Members of the committee asked the school board what Hinsdale High School is like and Chairwoman Holly Kennedy said it is part of a great town and great community. Crisafulli said the school is state-of-the-art in terms of its technology and the school's students are sent to Brattleboro Union High School for vocational programs.
Hinsdale School Board Vice Chairwoman Jeana Major objected to what she perceived as her colleagues being asked to pitch the idea of hosting Winchester teenagers at the school and asked committee members to, instead, describe their students and needs. Horton acknowledged Winchester and Hinsdale are demographically very similar and Lewis said some of Winchester's teenagers love commuting to Keene because of its atmosphere and city culture, while others dislike it and want a town that resembles Winchester. That would be Hinsdale, he said.
Kennedy told the Reformer on Thursday she feels the meeting was a good first step "to open up the lines of communication on this issue."
She also said 15 students (nearly half) in Hinsdale High School's senior class have been announced as New Hampshire Scholars. Kennedy said students who have met the requirements of the prestigious program will be eligible for scholarships and merit-based grants at several New Hampshire colleges and universities and will be recognized by Gov. Maggie Hassan at a ceremony at the N.H. Statehouse in the spring.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.