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Board OKs funding for police presence

Two agreements that pave the way for the use of school resource officers in the high schools were approved unanimously Tuesday by the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board.

One of the agreements covers the hiring of two police officers by the Town of Tonawanda Police Department, with their salaries paid by the school district. It has a three-year term, expiring in June 2010.

In addition to basic training, the two would receive special instruction related to their placement in Kenmore East and West high schools.

The Tonawanda Town Board also must approve that agreement, in order for the officers to be ready for duty in February 2008. Town officials are expected to discuss and act on it Monday.

In the other agreement, the school district will continue to pay overtime costs for two police officers to work in the schools until the resource officers take over.

In preparing the 2007-08 district budget, the School Board allocated $200,000 for developing a security plan. But police officers were assigned to the high schools in late May because of recurring bomb threats.

Once the officers were in place, the threats -- and mass response required by the Police Department -- stopped immediately.

"It also has allowed the Police Department to get to the business at hand," which is patrolling the town's streets, noted board President Melissa Brinson.

Member Thomas J. Noonan has been an advocate of implementing school resource officers -- police officers who would be assigned to the same school continuously in order to build rapport with students, staff and administrators.

But Noonan voiced concern Tuesday about the length of the agreement, given the annual uncertainty about state funding.

"To hamper future boards with a cost when we're not sure what's going to happen with our funding is a difficult thing to do," Noonan said.

District officials who have been meeting with Anthony J. Palombo, the town's police chief, said his primary concern is not having to lay off any officers if the program fizzles. Should a funding reduction threaten the program, the plan is to have the district continue payments until the resource officers could be absorbed by the Police Department, as the result of retirements or other departures.

Louis Reuter, the board's vice president, said: "I think that a safe school is one of the most important elements to enable students to learn." He said he's in favor of ongoing negotiations with the town to address concerns.

"I think that we're in for the long haul," Reuter said.

Charles J. Wuest, one of two new board members appearing at their first meeting, agreed.

Jill Robbins-Jabine also took her seat on the board Tuesday. During a brief reorganization session, Melissa Brinson was re-elected board president and Reuter vice president.


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