JOHNSTOWN — Talks over hiring an armed school resource officer for the Greater Johnstown School District have reached the homestretch.
Superintendent William Crankshaw avoided signing off on a contract for Johnstown Common Council approval on Monday as district officials, including GJSD attorneys, continue to review its language. The delay narrows the window for city officials to get an SRO trained and equipped before the start of the next academic year.
Despite the hold up, both the city and district are in accord over stationing an officer responsible for security services at the middle school and high school.
“This contract, the fact that it was not ratified by the council last night is not a reflection on our relationship,” Crankshaw said. “It’s really a reflection on the superintendent of schools wanting to be as thorough as possible and work with our attorneys.”
Johnstown Mayor Amy Praught said that she’s open to potentially holding a special Common Council meeting to get the program up and running, if timing warrants and talks are settled with GJSD.
“It’s hard to say,” Praught said. “If it’s a matter of no resource officer or resource officer due to the timing of our meetings, we’d definitely have an emergency meeting.”
If approved, GJSD would be among a growing number of Fulton County school districts to hire SROs in recent years, including Broadalbin-Perth, Mayfield and Gloversville. The trend follows a heightened demand for school safety following high-profile on-campus shootings across the country, along with concerns over teachers unable by law to rein in general nefarious behavior.
Preparing for threats is likely going to be 10% of the SRO’s workload, according to Johnstown Police Chief David Gilbo. He foresees the biggest part of the program will be to help alert members of the administration and counselors of student abuse at home.
“So yeah, if she’s not acting right or he’s not acting right, this [situation at home] is probably why,” Gilbo said. “Now we have an avenue to get somebody else to start talking to their child without involving the parents, causing more chaos.”
Some districts backed off having SROs, based on concerns over firearms in schools, the power to arrest troubled students and the price tag of services.
Under terms of the pending agreement, the district would be required to pay a flat fee of $60,000 for 46 weeks of service per year. The first year would be funded through a portion of GJSD’s remaining federal COVID-19 relief funds.
All benefits would be covered by the city.
If the pilot program proves successful, district policymakers are open to bringing another SRO on board at some point in the future.
“I’m confident this will go well,” Crankshaw said. “And as it does, we’ll look at expansion, but working with the city police force here has been very supportive and helpful.”
Talks between local police and GJSD officials over SROs spans more than two decades. The idea was brought up by the police following the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 and was also kicked around during the 2010s, but nothing materialized, according to Gilbo.
“[Crankshaw has] been a big proponent of this because he knows the aspect that the school has to have everything as a team, like the school resource officer and the security team,” Gilbo said.
Beyond SROs, GJSD is currently in the process of lining its campuses with high-tech security cameras — a process partially delayed by supply chain woes, according to Crankshaw. The district is also currently eyeing a TAP app emergency management communications system, in order to keep school leaders and employees in contact in real-time during emergencies from their mobile devices.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.