Editorial: Next on the agenda — Confusion

Posted 10/20/21

The actions of the Bristol Warren School Committee deserve scrutiny regarding the school resource officer situation developing at Kickemuit Middle School.

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Editorial: Next on the agenda — Confusion

Posted

The Warren Town Council may ultimately resolve the school resource officer dilemma at Kickemuit Middle School before it reaches a deadline (see story here). Yet even if they do, it reflects the ongoing dysfunction in the Bristol Warren Regional school administration.

At their last meeting, school committee members and the district’s legal counsel seemed perplexed by the resource officer situation, with confusion over the history of the position, the cost, and who is liable to pay for it.

That is surprising, since this newspaper included a detailed account, read by thousands of people, announcing the arrival of the school resource officer and the distribution of funding between the state, the school department and the Town of Warren, just two and a half years ago. This is not ancient history.

Although, in Bristol Warren school years, perhaps it is ancient history, since the agreement was made three superintendents ago. The unprecedented rate of turnover in this school administration is debilitating, with not only superintendents, but finance directors, chief operating officers, special education directors, technology directors, etc., etc., etc. all leaving, and in some cases, both arriving and leaving, in the last three years.

With all that turnover, no wonder school committee members were unaware of their liability to pay for this position.

Yet once they were made aware of this, why did the school committee so quickly and near-unanimously decide to abandon ship and create more discontinuity — in the middle of the school year — over a $50,000 expense that would be statistically insignificant in light of the more than $1 million that has already been taken from the district’s fund balance to close last year’s budget gap? It creates the appearance that the school committee would rather lay the issue squarely at Warren’s feet, potentially leaving KMS without its resource officer for 75 percent of a school year where they anticipated having one consistently throughout the entire year.

The value of a student resource officer is easily seen in Bristol, where they have maintained an SRO at Mt. Hope High School (for the safety and benefit of students from both towns) since 2003. The current officer has been in the position since 2012, a kind of stability that only further benefits the students and school community.

The Town of Warren has expressed a willingness to consider funding the position going forward, which is promising, but the school committee should not get a free pass regarding this problem that they, in part, allowed to happen in the first place.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.