Gowanda opts not to renew SRO contract

GOWANDA – The Gowanda Elementary School will be without a school resource officer as school starts on Wednesday. The Gowanda Village Board voted to not renew the SRO contract during a special meeting.

According to village board minutes, the resolution was to “not supply an SRO” due to “potential liability exposure.” The resolution came following an executive session during a special meeting.

Superintendent James Klubek said the school district still plans to hire an SRO.

“Our plan is to still get one. I think what it changes is, it changes our time frame,” Klubek said.

“We had a nice relationship with the village. They made this decision which is fine, no problem with that. We just have to look at other options now, that is all,” he added.

Klubek, who received a letter from the village on Friday, said the district is going to look at all options to fill the SRO position. One option will be to keep current SRO Jen Alessi or contracting with either Erie or Cattaraugus county. Alessi has been the SRO for over a decade.

The middle and high school currently has an SRO through a contract with Cattaraugus County and the Seneca Nation of Indians. Cattaraugus County deputy John Bennett was appointed by the Gowanda Board of Education in 2012.

“Almost no chance there is going to be one in the elementary school when school starts. I’m hoping to get one in place within a month of school starting. Our hope is to get it done by October 1,” said Klubek. “The nice thing is we do have one in the middle and high school. If there ever is an issue where we need to go to the elementary, hopefully we can utilize (Bennett).”

At a June village board meeting, residents inquired about the village now renewing the SRO contract with the school district.

At that time, Village Attorney Deborah Chadsey said the village was working with the district to have a more complete contract to address insurance and liability issues.

Alessi allegedly went over her allotted 1,040 civil service hours as a part-time police officer last school year.

The village, in June, said they wanted to rectify the situation and make sure allotted hours were adhered to. Mayor Heather McKeever was unable to be reached for comment.

Comments on this article may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com