Saugus preparing school resource officer proposal

SAUGUS — The School Committee is preparing to submit a proposal to access the more than $4 million in the Student Support Reserve Fund to pay for a pilot program to install a school resource officer at the Saugus Middle/High School complex.

School Committee Chair Vincent Serino said the district is still awaiting a decision on a grant application submitted through the police department that would cover the cost of the position, but was planning to put a proposal on the next Town Meeting warrant. Committee member Dennis Gould said the committee would submit an article to Town Manager Scott Crabtree’s office so it could then go before the Finance Committee for review.

Gould did not say when exactly the proposal would be submitted, simply saying the committee would like to see a school resource officer in place “as soon as possible.” Should the town secure the grant, which Gould indicated he believed it would, those funds would cover 60 percent of the costs of an officer for three to five years.

A proposal for an officer would have to go before Town Meeting after earning the Finance Committee’s support, Gould said.

The committee has thus far been unsuccessful in getting any proposals to access the fund before Town Meeting, for reasons that remain unclear. Serino has indicated several times that the committee intended to do so, but no formal proposals have ever gone before Town Meeting since Crabtree created the fund with state money last October.

It also is unclear when exactly the Finance Committee would next convene, with no Town Meetings on the books until May 2024.

In March, when the Finance Committee met to review the district’s fiscal year 2024 budget, members indicated support for a number of proposals presented by former Deputy Superintendent Margo Ferrick, but no vote was taken and the proposals appear to have fallen by the wayside.

While Gould and other committee members have indicated the proposals would go before Town Meeting, the language concerning the creation of the fund does not mention that requirement, instead simply saying proposals would require review by the Finance Committee. Members of the Finance Committee have said they would only support using the fund to pay for one-time costs, not the creation of new positions that could put a strain on the district’s operating budget.

Talk of a school resource officer in Saugus dates back months, with committee members repeatedly citing creating and filling that position as a priority. Yet, with the district forced to trim its budget down to exclusively rolling over level services, a school resource officer has remained a theoretical idea.

Ferrick, who departed the district in July to become the superintendent of Georgetown Public Schools, said the pilot program would serve as a way for the district to get a sense of how the position works and what its value is before expanding the police department’s footprint at Saugus schools.

“Having a school resource officer is really about creating a prevention model and community policing,” Ferrick said earlier this year. “So our goal is the officer would be in classrooms, teaching safety, building relationships with kids, being that person that the older kids go to when they know there might be a fight that happens after school to help prevent that. We haven’t had one here, as far as I know, in a very long time, if at all.”

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