Gowanda residents inquire about SRO contract

GOWANDA – Quest-ions arose during a recent Gowanda Village Board meeting in regard to the school resource officer. Many residents had questions for the village board as to why the current SRO contract has not been re-signed.

Village attorney Deborah Chadsey said she received an email from Gowanda Superintendent Charles Rinaldi with a proposed memorandum of understanding about a week and a half ago. According to Chadsey, the agreement is only a page and a half in length and does not address insurance or liability concerns. As the current contract stands, if current SRO Jen Alessi were to leave the district, the SRO position would be cut.

” …. These really simple page and a half agreements just don’t work anymore. They don’t protect the village, they don’t protect the school and they don’t protect the SRO,” said Chadsey. “The SRO is not changing, Jen (Alessi) is going to be the SRO. The form of the contract isn’t OK and we have to work that out with the school district and it seems appropriate if Mr. Rinaldi is retiring, we consult with the new superintendent and the new (elementary) principal because they are the administrators at the school that are going to be working with the village under this contract.”

Mayor Heather McKee-ver said the village was never going to not renew the contract. The village was made aware of Alessi allegedly going over her allotted 1,040 hours per civil service requirements. Alessi allegedly ran out of hours because she was working as a detective in the Gowanda Police Department in addition to SRO. Outside of being an SRO, she does not have time to work in the department under the allotted hours on civil service.

The village was informed by civil service that Alessi allegedly ran out of hours and the village made a note to rectify the situation for this upcoming school year.

Janet Vogtli, a local resident, said the village has incorrectly handled the situation regarding the SRO position. Resident Jan Samarra, who has worked in the school district, said the village seems to “playing around with our kids’ safety.”

“All of these safety programs that have been put in place over the years are because of Jen. When you start messing around with her contract, changing her contract and putting different provisions in her contract that were never there before, that is very worrisome to us. It doesn’t make us feel safe …,” Samarra said.

Trustee Carol Sheibley asked if the board could pass a resolution to appoint Alessi as SRO pending the signing of an official contract. While the board did make a motion to approve the resolution, every board member verbally confirmed they want to keep Alessi as the SRO.

“Jen is not going anywhere. Clearly everyone wants her,” Chadsey said.

The village board will meet next on July 8 where officials from the school district will be invited to the work session to discuss the SRO contract. The meeting will start at 7 p.m., with the work session starting at six o’clock.

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