At Monday’s joint school and selectboard meeting, several questions related to the responsibilities and funding of the Milton Town School District’s School Resource Officer were answered.
Held on Zoom Nov. 30, the discussion consisted of a brief recap of the district’s SRO survey findings. The results were originally presented Nov. 16 during a virtual community forum.
Designed and analyzed by the 19-member MTSD School Resource Officer Committee, the survey asked students, teachers and parents how they felt about the SRO’s presence, responsibilities, uniform and more.
Though the survey was sent to all students, faculty and parents, only 361 people responded.
While most survey-takers value having an SRO in the district, some respondents, as well as many school board members, had questions about how the SRO’s time is spent and how the position is funded.
Police Chief Stephen Laroche and Town Finance Director Jessica Morris cleared up five big questions.
1. How much of the SRO’s time is spent in the school district?
In 2019, the SRO spent 74.5% of her assigned police shifts in the school district, according to data present by Laroche. Out of the 184 school days in 2019, the SRO was on duty for 168 of those days.
2. How is the SRO spending their time when not in the school?
The SRO is assigned patrol shifts like other Milton police officers. In 2019, the SRO worked 68 patrol shifts, the majority of which were in July and August when school is not in session.
3. Does MTSD pay the SRO’s full salary?
No. To reflect the 74.5% of SRO time spent in the district, MTSD pays approximately 75% of the SRO’s salary, according to Morris. MTSD contributes $63,537 to the SRO’s salary and benefits. The town contributes the rest.
4. Who pays for the SRO’s police cruiser?
MTSD and the town split the cost.
MTSD only pays 33% of the cost of the cruiser. The town pays the other 66% percent as well as for all gas and maintenance.
Morris said this was a good deal for the school, given that the SRO spends 74.5% of her time at the school and the police cruiser is with her for all of that time.
5. Does the school have a say in who is chosen to be the SRO?
Yes. Two MTSD principals were included in the most recent SRO selection process, Laroche said. Two principals also contribute comments and feedback to the officer’s annual evaluation.
Now that these questions have been answered, School Board Chair Rick Dooley said the next step will be to create a focus group of school affiliates and police leadership to determine what changes, if any, could be made to the SRO’s uniform.
40 percent of surveyed parents and community members were in favor of some sort of uniform modification, and 46 percent of faculty and staff were in favor of changes.
“As a middle-aged white man — like the majority of us on this call are — I can’t possibly understand the experiences and perspectives of everyone in the district,” Dooley said. “That’s why I think a focus group is the best way to approach this.”
MTSD’s contract with the current SRO will be up for renewal this spring, so the school board plans to iron out these details in time for those negotiations.
“I want to give kudos to the district for looking into this,” selectboard member Chris Taylor said. “As a parent and as an employee of the school, I have seen firsthand the benefits of having an SRO in the school.”