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Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2007

Commission: School district should help fund resource officers, crossing guards

Taxpayers currently pay for programs; superintendent says budget is already tight

September 6, 2007

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SRO Matt Sarna talks about his job

Lawrence Police Officer Matt Sarna describes what his day is like as the school resource officer at Free State High School. Enlarge video

City asks schools to help fund SROs, crossing guards

They're city employees, but they spend most of their time in or near Lawrence schools working with students. Enlarge video

School Resource Officer Matt Sarna talks with students Wednesday at Free State High School, explaining his role at the school during a late-morning class. The city of Lawrence, which funds the student resource officers and crossing guards in the Lawrence school district, wants the district to pay for part of those costs beginning next school year.

School Resource Officer Matt Sarna talks with students Wednesday at Free State High School, explaining his role at the school during a late-morning class. The city of Lawrence, which funds the student resource officers and crossing guards in the Lawrence school district, wants the district to pay for part of those costs beginning next school year.

School Resource Officers

See how other communities fund School Resource Officers and crossing guard positions.

It will be a lesson in sharing.

City commissioners and Lawrence school board members soon will get an opportunity to discuss how they can share and share alike when it comes to funding crossing guards and police officers who are stationed at Lawrence public schools.

"Right now, unlike in many communities, city taxpayers are picking up the entire costs of those programs," City Manager David Corliss said.

Corliss is proposing that city and school district leaders now begin discussions about splitting the costs for the two programs beginning in the 2008-09 school year. That would mean school district leaders would need to come up with about $300,000 to $350,000 to fund six full-time school resource officers and 14 part-time crossing guards.

School Superintendent Randy Weseman said he supports both programs, but finding new school dollars for them won't be simple. He estimated the school district will have $6 million worth of new funding requests for the 2008-09 school year.

"I'll ask the school board to look at that, but I'm certainly not going to predict what the school board's response will be," Weseman said. "We have pretty severe budget issues of our own."

Ditto for the city.

City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said it is important for the city to look at all ways possible to balance its budget. For the past several years, the city has operated with general fund budgets that spend more than the city is receiving in revenues. The city has been using money in fund balance accounts - a type of savings account - to cover the difference. That practice, though, must end, Chestnut said.

"We need to find a way to balance our budget," Chestnut said.

At this point, though, the city is not threatening to take its ball and go home. Neither Chestnut nor Corliss said the city was seriously contemplating ending either the school resource officer program or the crossing guard program if the school district doesn't help with the costs.

"They're critical functions that need to stay," Chestnut said. "I don't think there is any doubt about that. The SROs offer a real presence and offer good leadership for kids in the school."

Both high schools and all four junior highs have a school resource officer assigned to them. Thirteen elementary schools in the city have crossing guards. The crossing guard program costs $95,000 per year. The school resource officer program costs $600,000 per year, which includes costs of equipment and supplies.

Several Kansas communities have school resource officer programs, which originally were funded by a federal grant in the early part of this decade but was absorbed in the city budgets when the grant expired several years ago. Corliss' staff found that most cities receive some funding from school districts to help finance the program.

Corliss' staff researched 12 other Kansas communities and found that Topeka is the only other city that funds 100 percent of the school resource officer program. Most paid 40 percent or more of the program's cost. On school crossing guards, the results were mixed. Six of 12 cities pay 100 percent of the crossing guard costs, while the other six pay none of the costs.

Weseman said it was important for people to look at more than Corliss' data.

"We do have to look at these partnerships in total," Weseman said. "I don't imagine that Parks and Recreation's programs could survive very long if they didn't have the use of our gymnasiums seven days a week.

"You have to remember that this is a very symbiotic, reciprocal relationship."

At the school level, they don't care so much where the money comes from, but they definitely want to see the programs continue. Don Clancy, a trades and industry teacher at Free State High School, said the SRO program allows students to see police officers in a different light.

"They don't come in as a police officer normally would in a bad situation," Clancy said. "They come in as a friend and as a staff member."

Officer Matt Sarna has served as school resource officer at Free State for the past five years. He said he does everything from working with students who are on probation to just being a friendly face in the lunchroom for students to talk to.

"If there's one kid you can touch every year and keep them out of trouble and make them go down the right path, that's very important," Sarna said. "That's one of the special parts about this program."









Lawrence schools and locations that have crossing guards

BROKEN ARROW

27th & Louisiana

CORDLEY

19th & Vermont19th & Massachusetts

DEERFIELD

Princeton & Lawrence AvenuePeterson & Arrowhead

HILLCREST

Harvard & Iowa Street

KENNEDY

19th & HarperHarper & Davis Road

LANGSTON HUGHES

Harvard & George Williams Way

PRAIRIE PARK

27th & Mayfair Place28th & Kensington

PINCKNEY

6th & Mississippi5th & Maine

QUAIL RUN

Inverness & Wingedfoot Ct

SCHWEGLER

23rd & Ousdahl22nd & Ousdahl

SUNFLOWER

(Between Wildflower & Bluestem) & 27th

SUNSET

9th & SchwartzHarvard & Kasold

WOODLAWN

4th & Locust7th & Locust

6News reporter Laura McHugh contributed to this report.

Comments

stuckinthemiddle 7 years, 3 months ago

It's too bad that there has to be police in the schools... I wonder what whould happen if they weren't there...

cowboy 7 years, 3 months ago

I think the school could probably survive without full time police presence , when i went to a school back in the olden days we had patrol , got to wear those cool white belts and help the little ones across the streets , it was a big deal to be a " patrol boy or patrol girl".

average 7 years, 3 months ago

27th and Louisiana, 6th and Mississippi? Are the pedestrian tunnels still in use at those locations?

nixon 7 years, 3 months ago

I have worked with several officers with LPD on child issues. My son attended FSHS and Officer Sarna was the most professional law enforcement officer I have ever met. He saved my child from going down the wrong path. My child did not trust law enforcement until he met Officer Sarna. He even assisted him in getting a job. My child graduated high school and is now in college. He always talks about going back to Free State to talk to him. I know this has nothing to do with the budget, but the program does work thanks to dedicated people like Officer Sarna. FS should be proud to have him there.

Shardwurm 7 years, 3 months ago

Translation:

"We don't have enough in our budget to cover this so we need to pass it off to another organization."

Interestingly both organizations are taxpayer financed...so get ready for a tax increase soon.

mom_of_three 7 years, 3 months ago

Sometimes I really wonder about the school budget. Several years ago, state funds were cut to our district, so the district tripled the school fees to make up the difference. Then recently, state funds were returned to our district, but the fees were never lowered.
Where is all the money going?

woxy 7 years, 3 months ago

Average:

I don't know about 6th and Missisippi (although I'm sure there is a tunnel there being used) but at 27th and Louisiana the crossing guard is not for kids crossing Louisiana (they use the tunnel) but for kids crossing 27th Street. Although the vehicles have a stop sign there, the crossing guard makes sure the kids can safely cross that busy intersection by making sure the cars stop BEHIND the crosswalk.

woxy 7 years, 3 months ago

Also ... there are a lot of cars turning left and right off of Louisiana Street to 27th Street. The crossing guard there is invaluable.

stuckinthemiddle 7 years, 3 months ago

RETICENT_IRREVERENT Good points... I was captain of the Safety Patrol in 6th grade. We directed all the kids through all the crosswalks boardering the school.

We had badges and the kids looked up to us...

stuckinthemiddle 7 years, 3 months ago

from the article: "The school resource officer program costs $600,000 per year, which includes costs of equipment and supplies."

What are they spending $600,000 on? Does this include the salaries of the police officers? If not, what on earth are the spending the money on?

kugrad 7 years, 3 months ago

Yes, the $600,000 includes the salaries of the officers, or so it has been explained to me.

stuckinthemiddle 7 years, 3 months ago

kugrad Thanks... If so, I'm not as stunned by the cost... but I still wonder what equipment and supplies are needed that would cost $50,000 or more at each school...

kugrad2007 7 years, 3 months ago

The commission will do anything to not have to pay for something. The crossing guards are mandatory, but maybe the city commissioners would rather have some child get run over before they think it's really needed.

On the other hand, the school district needs to budget their money too. Maybe the school district would have more money in their budgets if they didn't send 4 notices (in one week) in the mail at a cost of 37 cents a piece to tell me that my son has a negative $1.50 balance for food. Seriously.

Jeanne Cunningham 7 years, 3 months ago

Oh, my Gawd!! kugrad2007 - you have to be kidding me. That has happened to me, too - except at an even more egregious level than you mentioned!!! And, the worst of it is this - my youngest child is NOW 21, so it's been happening for way too many years.

Back on topic - I believe that the Resource Officers are WONDERFUL!!!! As one of the other posters already mentioned, they are great intermediaries between kids and the police. Too many kids have very wrong impressions of police officers and if the ONLY benefit of the Resource Officer program was to help create positive and realistic impressions for those kids, it would be more than worth its costs.

Charles L Bloss Jr 7 years, 3 months ago

They are well worth their cost. What they bring to the educational process is worth way more than what is costs to have them there. No matter who pays for them, the money still comes from taxpayers pockets. Thank you, Lynn

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