Wilmington board member Kathy Larsen said she recently saw a petition calling for another vote on funding for a school resource officer, or SRO. An article on the annual school district meeting asking voters to approve the SRO position at $41,100 per year failed by substantial margins in both towns. Earlier, the board discussed the SRO position with Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark, who told them an SRO would be more than just a security presence at the school, the officer would also be a counselor, educator, and mentor.
Larsen suggested the board find out what grants may be available, so they can share the information with the public in the event that the petition is successful. Superintendent Richard McClements said he’d find out if any grants are available. Larsen said she’d also like to learn more about how the SRO would operate in the school. “I would like to be more informed,” she said. “There were a lot of questions we couldn’t answer (at Town Meeting).”
Twin Valley School Board Chair Seth Boyd said the board would hold informational meetings and a vote, if both towns turn in petitions, but he appeared doubtful that a second vote would have a different result than the first. “It was defeated two to one in both towns,” he said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a sea change.”
If a revote is petitioned, board members agreed they’ll need to provide more information. “The entire security picture needs to be looked at in terms of the new school,” Taylor said. “A lot of the comments from voters were similar to comments from the board, like questions about the concept of someone with a weapon in the school, the SRO’s relationship to the kids, and what would they be doing in the school all that time. Unless we can answer those questions, I wouldn’t expect different results.”
Taylor expressed doubt that a police presence would be appropriate at a small school like Twin Valley Middle/High School. “It feels like trying to put a square peg into a round hole,” he said. “It works in bigger schools, but I’m not so sure about small schools.”
In other discussions, Twin Valley board member Adam Grinold offered a motion directing administrators to upgrade and update the school’s website, and authorize up to $5,000 to get the job done. But after discussing the matter, the motion was eventually changed to direct administrators to bring three proposals back to the table for the board to evaluate.
Administrators said they don’t have the time to put into a web development project. “My first reaction was that I don’t think the timing is good for the administration,” said McClements. “You’ve got a new principal preparing to take over the middle/high school, Becca (Fillion, Twin Valley Elementary School Principal) has her initiatives underway, we’re talking about the need for a security plan, and the academic committee also has a lot of initiatives.”
McClements said the website was important, and he suggested hiring someone to do the work for the board, rather than have administrators take on the job.
Twin Valley board member Dennis Richter, who has been pushing the issue of website improvement, said the schools need more than someone who will act as a webmaster. “I think you need a web solution,” he said. “Other schools implement web solutions.” Richter suggested the school contract with a web company called Edline.com, which would create a unified web presence for the district for about $5,600 per year.
But administrators and other board members expressed concern that Edline’s web solution wouldn’t be compatible with web-based applications the school already uses. Fillion said every teacher and student at the school has a Google account that is integrated with their daily work, but Edline wouldn’t be compatible with Google. “It’s too much to change all of that,” she said.
Grinold suggested administrators bring three proposals to the board. “It’s my intention to see something other than what we have,” he explained. “We have three schools that are about to become two. I think we can hire someone to make it work.”
In other matters, Whitingham board members approved a bank loan of $4,066,925 for construction at Twin Valley Middle/High School, in anticipation of state funds. Whitingham School Board Chair Dwight Williams said the interest rate on the loan would be 1.09%, and the investment yield of unexpended funds would be 1.3%, meaning the school would earn interest on money in the account as they draw it down. Overall, he said, the loan will likely cost about $25,000 in interest in the 2015 budget.
Fillion told board members that Olympic silver medal winner Devin Logan visited the school last week, to the delight of students. Logan has visited schools around the valley since her return from the Sochi Olympics. “She told me that the highlight of her success has been the response from kids,” Fillion said.