In a move to provide additional hours of full-time security, members of the Corry Area School Board agreed to enter into a contract with the Erie County Sheriff's Office to provide a school resource officer for the 2019-20 school year.
The district most recently contracted an SRO with the city of Corry Police Department, however, that agreement terminated on June 30, prompting CASD leaders to weigh their options.
"The city told us that after Dec. 31, that they are not sure if they could help us with the funding," said CASD board member Joe Frisina. "So, we could get caught right in the middle of the school year."
The cost of an SRO, who was provided by the city of Corry Police Department, was shared between the school district and the city of Corry — the entity that funds the police department.
The school district had a commitment of $50,000 of the cost and the city picked up the remainder of the officer's salary. However, due to budget restraints, the city warned the district that it may not be able to cover its share for the SRO salary as of Jan. 1, 2020, when the new city budget goes into effect. Therefore, leaving CASD on the hook for the entire salary the remainder of the year.
CASD leaders additionally considered that an SRO provided by the city was not always available full time to service the district. Oftentimes, the SRO was pulled out because he was the only officer on duty with the chief and was mandated to respond to a city call.
There were additional reasons why the SRO had to leave during school hours including having to appear in court either locally or in Erie.
Through the sheriff's department, the SRO would be available to CASD full time and not have to leave the grounds to respond to outside business.
"This will truly be a benefit to our school," said CASD Superintendent Sheri Yetzer. "With the sheriff's office we will have a full-time, onsite SRO 187 days for eight and a half hours a day. That is a huge plus."
Figures provided by the sheriff's office that were shared by Yetzer indicate that Corry could experience a savings by entering into this new agreement.
Estimated costs for an SRO through the sheriff's department would run anywhere between $54,200 and $39,064 depending on the level of experience.
"We also would have a say in who we get and we would be in on the interview process," Yetzer said. "We would help decide who is assigned to Corry and make sure it is the right match for our district."
Board members held a brief conversation during Monday's meeting about hiring two SROs for the upcoming school year. One would be assigned to Corry Area Middle-High School and the other would go between the two elementary schools — Corry Area Primary School and Corry Area Intermediate School.
"We have only talked about one, but if the board wants we can go with two," Yetzer said.
There are eight school districts in the tri-county area that are using SROs through a sheriff's office, including Northwestern, North East, Harbor Creek and Fairview.
"The importance of having an SRO here is to have a police presence," Yetzer said. "We are looking for security and safety, and to have someone here to secure and protect students and staff if a situation should occur."
The vote to enter into a contract with the sheriff's office passed by a 6-2 vote, with Lonny Eastman and Mike Baker being the "no" votes. Voting "yes" was Frisina, Doris Gernovich, Amy Allen, Joel Cook, Amanda Cox and Chris Johnson. Deborah Wood was absent from the meeting.
"I do have a lot of comments and concerns," Eastman said prior to the vote. "I would much rather talk to this sheriff's department spokesman so we know exactly what we are getting into. I just hate to rush into something."
Allen reminded the board that they have been discussing this topic for several months, which culminated with a recent presentation from Dan Daum, director of elementary education, who was tasked with researching the district's SRO options.