Petition due for re-vote on SRO


WHITINGHAM -- Efforts to get a School Resource Officer in the Twin Valley Middle and High School have not died out.

"I know that our assistant high school principal Bob Morse has a pretty extensive background in school security," said Superintendent Richard McClements. "He'll probably be working with the (Twin Valley School) Board for protocols and procedures."

A petition for a reconsideration of Article 2, which asked voters to authorize funding for a SRO, is due today (April 4) as it is a month after Town Meeting. The petition originated at C & S Wholesale in Wilmington, where it was posted. In order to pass, 15 percent of the voters from both towns would need to support the petition by signing it.

Wilmington School Board member Dennis Richter has signed the petition. He spoke in support of the SRO at Town Meeting.

"We had informational meetings in both towns. It wasn't really discussed much at those meetings. There were a lot of questions at the Wilmington one that I tried to answer as best I could," he said. "I guess I should have been more prepared because I've done some of the research."

If the petition passes, Richter told the Reformer that he'd be better prepared to answer questions and law enforcement officials would likely attend informational meetings regarding the position.

There is no police department in Whitingham, where the Twin Valley Middle and High School will be located next school year. That had troubled some officials.

"Due to the new middle school/high school being in a rural location, I was just concerned about the police presence," said Richter. "Unfortunately, in this day and age, you have to worry about this stuff."

He believes that an SRO would make the environment safer not only for the students, but the administration and teachers as well.

Both towns' school boards proposed the hiring of an SRO at a total cost of $41,100. It was believed that a grant could possibly be secured that would allow for the Twin Valley District to pay for only one year of four for the service. The remaining funds would be provided through federal funding.

The officer likely would come from the Wilmington Police Department or the Windham County Sheriff's Department.

McClements said he was expected to contact someone to find out whether the grant would be available again in the spring.

One reason that voters may have shut it down in the first place was the cost of consolidating the two towns into one school district. But since those efforts began, security and safety were concerns for Richter.

The lack of a job description for the SRO position had concerned residents in Wilmington. Richter mentioned that it was still open and it would be formulated by the Twin Valley School Board and whichever police department supplies the officer. The SRO would be an officer in uniform and would be armed at all times.

"It's not necessarily a bad thing. They're not the bad guys. They're the good guys," concluded Richter. "If the petition passed, I'm sure the board will put together informational meetings and we'll discuss this."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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