The Post Gazette ran a story today in which they explore the increased interest in the need for proper security in schools around western PA. After the tragic events which unfolded on Friday in Connecticut, I cannot imagine anyone with children NOT wondering about the security measures taken in their school district to ensure their children’s safety. However, what is incredibly ironic about the article was the image they chose to use to highlight the story: our own Bellevue Elementary.
I find this incredibly ironic because only five or six months ago some members of our current council spent an exuberant amount of time arguing against the need to continue funding the School Resource Officer Program which has ensured the presence of a uniformed police officer at Northgate High School. According to the minutes of the June 2012 Public Safety Committee Meeting, the major argument against continuing the funding started with President Linda Woshner’s and Councilwoman Jane Braunlich’s frustration with the borough of Avalon and Northgate School Board “not paying their fair share of the cost.” At the time, Ms. Woshner and Braunlich didn’t believe Avalon and Northgate were playing fair and the only viable solution they could seem to muster was to cut Bellevue’s support of the program completely, effectively eliminating any uniformed security at the high school (unless the school district paid for the officer alone). Ms. Braunlich even went so far as to question whether the program was necessary in the first place. Ms. Braunlich went on the record demanding to see the statistics of violence and crime in the school district from 12 years ago, prior to the installation of the SRO.
During the July 2012 Pre-Council Meeting, President Linda Woshner must have found statistical support for the program being unnecessary because she, in no uncertain terms, went on the public record stating she does not believe an SRO is needed at Northgate at all. She believed that the money which Bellevue pays to ensure the safety of 600 children could be better used in others ways within the borough. Councilwoman Lynn Heffley, a teacher at Bellevue Elementary, and Councilman Jim Scisciani completely disagreed with Ms. Woshner, but their disagreements seemed to fall on deaf ears. During the public contribution time of both the July Pre-Council and July Regular Council Meetings there was clear vocal opposition to the borough simply withdrawing its funding of the program which was viewed by some as a childish way of dealing with a complex, but necessary discussion about funding the SRO.
Ultimately, the SRO Agreement between the borough and the school district was removed from the agenda of the July 2012 Regular Council Meeting and was supposed to be brought up for discussion again at a future finance committee meeting. The only available minutes from the finance committee following the July Regular Council meeting are from the August Finance Committee Meeting and there is no discussion to be found in the minutes about the SRO. It would seem at this moment that the discussion was simply dropped in July and has yet to be discussed again.
This leaves us with one simple question: In light of the tragic events which took the lives of 20 precious children in Connecticut, can we be adults about this now and get back to discussing how we are going to continue funding the SRO?
Both President Linda Woshner and Councilwoman Jane Braunlich attempted to pull the funding for the SRO for two fundamental reasons: 1) They felt it was unnecessary, and 2) it was simply “too expensive” for the borough (although I do find it interesting that within the minutes linked above the quote for the total cost of the program for the borough changed three times between $56K – $80K).
I would like to know if Ms. Woshner and Ms. Braunlich have changed their opinions of the need for an SRO in light of the tragedy in Connecticut.
I also would like to know what Ms. Woshner and Ms. Braunlich consider a reasonable price to pay to protect our children.
If it has not already happened, negotiating the cost of maintaining a police presence within our school district is needed. One borough should not be carrying the burden of securing students from two boroughs. It only seems reasonable to entertain a discussion among Avalon, Bellevue, and Northgate to ensure everything is being done to keep our children safe.
However, if nothing else, voters in Bellevue need to be aware of the fact that the same two individuals who were bent on ensuring the borough was safe from rogue grill and fire pit users were the two most passionate about ending the School Resource Officer program at our school. I don’t know about you, but something just doesn’t add up here.