Community service workers who would work near city schools as crossing guards and parking enforcement, but who would not carry guns, were the topic of discussion during last week’s city council meeting. City Manager Scott Pickup informed the council he sent the description of the community service worker position to Westchester County legislators, who will need to approve the positions.
The city council is hoping to help the district enhance its security in the wake of the Newtown shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school, but not all members agree on the best way to do that. The plan for the community service workers developed during a meeting between Pickup, Mayor Doug French and Rye City School District Superintendent Frank Alvarez and school board president Laura Slack, Pickup told the council at the Feb. 13 meeting.
Pickup explained that the three new positions would help assuage absentee problems with the city’s current eight crossing guards. He noted that there has been enhanced police presence since the Newtown shooting and the but that it is not sustainable.
However, city council members Joe Sack and Julie Killian said the city might be offering too much help according to what they have heard from their own conversations with school board members.
“They (school officials) seem to feel that we are giving them more than they asked for,” Killian said based on conversations she has had with Slack and other board members she said.
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Pickup emphasized that he and Alvarez had discussed the community service workers plan just two days before. French explained that increased security outside of the school is something the district has asked for over the last ten years and emphasized the new positions would serve a different purpose than school security on campus.
“This goes back several years about increasing police presence outside of the schools, on city streets, even before hazing and Sandy Hook they have wanted an increased presence at the school…they have been talking about this for ten years now,” French said.
Killian noted that the district is performing an internal audit and suggested the council wait for those results before approving these new jobs. She also pointed out that construction of the school’s new science wing would make security even more difficult over the next two years.
“All the current parking has to go somewhere so there is going to be a dramatic impact in the neighborhoods for the next two years,” Pickup said in agreement with Killian. “We need people to help with that problem.”
There will be no parking on Parsons Street and two new crossing guards will be needed during the construction, Pickup said. The community service workers will be able to help with parking enforcement when it becomes a bigger problem, although they will not be eligible to give speeding or traffic and violation tickets, he said. Pickup added that the new workers would free up the police force from subbing in as crossing guards to do the offsite patrol around campus during pickup and drop off times.
The city council already took one step towards alleviating police from crossing guard duty when they approved a 2013 budget that included $30,000 to hire two new crossing guards, which have not yet been hired.
Pickup said he will follow up with the school board and bring the issue back to the council, which will need to vote on the community service worker positions.
Moving forward with its own security plans, the Rye school board has included $322,000 for security in its 2013-2014 proposed budget, which was presented earlier this month. They also voted to hire security officers from NJB Security Services, based in Mount Vernon in January. They will add three security officers to the elementary schools and one new guard at the middle school and high school. The district is also conducting an internal audit of its safety and security procedures.
Do you like the idea of community service workers? Why or why not? What do you think is most needed to improve safety at Rye City schools?