The Ellington Board of Education has voted to approve the implementation of a school resource officer – most likely a state trooper – and the Board of Selectmen on Monday voted to send the request forward to the state.
Superintendent of Schools Stephen Cullinan said that the request must come from the First Selectman’s office, and with that there must also be a feasibility study – proving that there is a need in the district – from Sgt. Patrick Sweeney. Cullinan said that he believes Sweeney has finished that study.
Cullinan has presented his preliminary budget to the board and a full time school resource officer is in it.
“Hopefully that will receive the support of the Board of Finance and the public as we go through the process,” he said.
While the full application process still must be gone through – and then posting the job and interviewing for it – it is a possibility that there could be a resource officer in the schools by the end of this school year.
“Realistically, could you expect to have an officer before maybe April 1?,” Cullinan said. “I don’t know. It is two or three months of funding for the program and the Board of Education would fund the two or three months out of this particular year until we get to July 1.”
In the past, the district has had a school resource officer, sharing one with Stafford and Somers. Cullinan said that in May of 2010, Gov. Jodi Rell eliminated the funding for the program so the towns lost the officer.
According to Cullinan, the intent is not to have a security guard in the schools, and the officer would be shared throughout the district – not just at one particular school. The officer would provide feedback on drills and preparedness plans, partake in some educational functions and programs, step in when there are disciplinary incidents that require an officer, and have a relationship with the students and their families.
“Having more contact with kids over multiple years will build an even better rapport with the families,” he said. “I want that person to be the resident expert of our schools and know who our people are.”
Cullinan said that every year, there is a conversation about trying to implement a school resource officer, but with finances being what they are – and Ellington being 166 out of 166 in per pupil spending – it’s been difficult.
“I need math and reading and science help, so this gets put aside,” he said.
In October, Sweeney reviewed all the emergency procedures at the school – and they are once again being looked at – but according to Cullinan, Newtown did have an impact on pushing for this program at this time.
“My guess would be that had we not had the Newtown incident, that maybe it would not have the high priority that it has now,” he said. “It would have had a little bit lower priority and maybe would not have made it into next year’s budget. I would say Newtown definitely has an impact on it, but it’s not a new program – the district did have it in the past.”