At a recent meeting, Dr. Kevin Dickerson, Superintendent of Milford School District, provided the board with information on two sidewalk projects the district may partner with the city to upgrade as well as details on the contract for School Resource Officers (SRO) used by the district.
“We do have one project here with 10th Street that goes kind of behind Milford High School and behind Brigg’s Stadium. If you notice, the sidewalk kind of ends before you get to that parking lot behind Brigg’s Stadium,” Dr. Dickerson said. “There’s also a really nice bike path and walking path behind Grotto’s and that whole facility back there. We would like to work with the city to connect that walking path for safety for community residents, our school, our campus students as well if they’re ever traveling there, but we think that will be a great partnership to have with the city. And we think that will not only help just the city but also our schools as well.”
Dr. Dickerson stated that work would possibly begin on 10th Street over the summer and that the city was currently working on sketches to show what a walking and bicycle path might look like. Once the drawings were provided, he stated that information would be brought to the board regarding costs and funding.
“The other place we’re looking at or entertaining also with the city is looking at more access to the circle that’s outside of Mispillion Elementary School that would support the city,” Dr. Dickerson said. “We don’t think that provides any type of disruption to what we have there in that area. But we have those projects there. We will receive more information, and then really pictures of what this was going to look like and we’ll bring those to the board. At that time, we would have a discussion and seek approval. We just like to be able to partner with the city as we go forward on some projects that make sense to help the city and also make it a better place here for our community overall.”
After the discussion about sidewalks and paths, Dr. Dickerson provided the board with the contract for SROs for the upcoming year. He provided the contract so the board could read over it before adding it to the agenda as an action item in June.
“But I just want to go through the history of this a little bit. We had discussion before the school year began, if you remember,” Dr. Dickerson said. “We used to have three SROs in our schools throughout our district. This year we have two as the city does not have as many officers for us to have available. Plus, the costs of the officers have risen as well. So, two years ago, we were in a situation we received three officers for $150,000. We paid for two and received one courtesy of the City of Milford. This past year, obviously rising costs, employment costs and those type of things, we had an agreement for two officers for $125,000. In the fall, we also then brought a constable in to MCA as well. So we have an SRO at the high school and a constable at MCA. We do still have that one officer with Mispillion and Lulu Ross, but on the secondary campus now we have an SRO at the high school and a constable in MCA. This is another increase in costs here. Just wants you to be able to review it tonight.”
Dr. Dickerson reported that the SRO’s were going to cost the district $86,500 per officer and that did not include other expenses like benefits. He explained that the SROs work 10 months each year and that they provide services to the city during those 10 months as well. The city also used to provide crossing guards at Banneker, Ross and Mispillion which cost $10,000 each. The city has offered to split the cost with the district. Board member David Vezmar asked if the SROs were employees of the city or employees of the district.
“So the employees are really City of Milford employees,” Dr. Dickerson said. “If there’s an emergency where they need somebody, on those rare occasions, yes, they’re going to have to go out to something if they have to in the community.”
Vezmar asked what percentage of the $86,500 salary the district was getting out of the SROs, questioning if it was as low as 50 percent. Dr. Dickerson stated that it was more than 50 percent and that the SRO’s were dedicated to the district for the 10 months. They also provide assistance with summer school but that if there was a major emergency in the town, they could be pulled to assist with that emergency. Dr. Sara Croce, Chief Financial officer explained that the $86,500 was a prorated figure provided by the city and not the full salary of the police officer. Dr. Dickerson explained that the biggest issue facing the district was the increase in cost since they were also paying for constables to make up for the lost officers last year.
“I guess the thought process we’re having here right now is that we’d stay in the configuration that’s worked out well for us. One thing I do want to point out, we’ve had a great relationship with local police department. They’ve been awesome for us to work with, collaborate partner with and, and work through situations and also obviously helped keep us safe and secure. So they’ve always been there for us and very obviously grateful for the service they’ve always provided,” Dr. Dickerson said. “I think there are two different scenarios that we are looking at down the road, keeping our current configuration or do we look at Mispillion and Ross being better served by having a constable at one building, but there is another cost that you can see that about a $30,000 plus cost, if that was going to happen, as well.”
Board member Kris Thompson asked if the police department could attend the next meeting and provide information on the types of complaints as well as the complaint load the SRO’s dealt with at the schools. He felt the information could demonstrate whether a law enforcement officer was necessary or if the district should consider hiring their own security services. He also asked if the district could financially sustain the additional cost. Dr. Croce stated that the district was in a position to cover the $43,000 additional costs. School Board President Jason Miller asked if the district had looked into the Delaware State Police to see if they had officers available.
“We have not at this point in time although we reached out last summer and had some talks and I don’t want to misspeak, but I want to say it’s right about the same price if not just a little bit higher. I think it just a little bit higher. $90,000 if I’m not mistaken,” Dr. Dickerson said. “Just one thing the other reason why we add this to the contract itself is different we’ve had in the past. So the contract in the past that you have we have three that last contracts that we have to this one is just really per officer. And so we just worried down the road are we going to be able to continue with having the city being able to provide us an officer approach.” Dr. Croce stated that there is also a long waiting list to get a Delaware State Police SRO.
Vezmar stated that he felt there was a significant benefit to having local officers in the schools.
“I was gonna say just to piggyback off of Mr. Vezmar said, as I 100% support what he just said and for no other reason is that a lot of people look at SROs strictly as a law enforcement officer,” Thompson said. “They are here to enforce the relationships that are built with our SROs and they sometimes bridge the gaps that some students may have never had a positive interaction with a uniformed law enforcement officer in the past. Our SROs are the officers that can bridge that gap and maybe have a positive interaction with some students. And the fact that they’re here, they’re local, they’re also within our community is really good. They see them more than just in school and see them more than just in uniform. These officers show up at sporting events and work security after hours and are at proms or homecoming dances, so they see them quite frequently, so I don’t disagree. I think having a local officer involved with our school and during the same community to sponsors great relationships between the students and local communities. I think some more work needs to be done with this contract before we’re comfortable signing.”
The contract will be included on the next school board agenda as an action item.
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