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Otter Valley directors urged to keep police officer’s post

BRANDON — Many of the 16 people who attended the Nov. 17 meeting of the Otter Valley Union High School board voiced their support for Brandon Police Officer Anne Bandy and the position of School Resource Officer (SRO). The board is expected to cut the position in its 2011-2012 budget, netting a savings of $38,000.
Social Studies teacher Judy Dardeck has been at OV for 37 years and said she definitely feels an SRO is needed.
“We’ve had an SRO for a long time and things seem to be going well,” she said. “In this day and age, I don’t want to work in a public high school that doesn’t have that status of authority and rapport with students. There are just too many loose cannons out there.”
Social Studies teacher Bill Petrics added that Bandy also provides educational services, such as organizing a mock trial; talking to students about child abuse; and helping kids understand the dangers of drugs, alcohol and peer pressure.
OV students Emily Giddings and Jess Greeno were at the budget meeting specifically to voice their support for Bandy.
“Sometimes you just needs someone to talk to other than the people I have to talk to,” Giddings said. “Officer Bandy is always there to listen.”
Greeno was more direct.
“(Cutting the SRO position) is going to cause a lot of problems for a lot of families,” she told the board. “I personally think it’s a terrible idea.”
OV Co-Principal Jim Avery was on the administrative team that created the SRO position in 2003, and said that OV was “ahead of the curve in recognizing the importance of community-based policing,” but added that a difficult decision must be made.”
“I support everything you’re saying and we don’t come to this lightly,” Avery said. “But we are in the place of balancing other instructional costs. There is the rub. Officer Bandy brings all of those skills you look for in an SRO and we are aching over having to make that decision.”
School board member Maria Ammatuna, who represents Brandon, said the committee’s vote on budget cuts at an earlier meeting was split.
“My reason for wanting the SRO position here is that it is multi-faceted,” she said. ‘We get a tremendous amount for the money we’re spending. When we talk about dollars and positions and programming, the SRO position is highly valuable.”
OV board member Dave Bishop of Goshen said he was “on the other side of the fence” when the committee voted on budget cuts, and had changed his mind. Bishop alluded to $35,000 of possible help from the town of Brandon in offsetting the cost of the SRO position.
“We should talk to the town of Brandon about that $35,000,” he said.. “I’ve mentally flipped a coin in my head about what we should do. The coin has flipped to Maria’s side.”
Brandon Police Chief Chris Brickell was in attendance and quietly listened during the meeting seated next to Bandy, who at times teared up listening to the voices of support.
“One of the things that concerns me is that things will be different at the school,” said Brickell, whose daughter is a freshman at OV. “I understand you have a big obligation to the numbers and the taxpayers, believe me. But you have a pretty safe environment here.”
The OV board must present a budget to the state by Dec. 15, which is also the date of the board’s next meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the OV library.

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