(SRO Jake Conilogue with the Fremont County School District 1 Board of Education. File photo)
(Lander, Wyo.) – The Fremont County School District 1 Board of Education reviewed the possibility of taking a grant to help fund a second School Resource Officer position, and strong support for accepting the grant was voiced at the Friday meeting.
The grant was applied for earlier this year and awarded about a month ago. The school board’s last chance to accept the grant is its Nov. 19 meeting. The grant would fund $125,000 over a three-year period and require the board to fully fund the position in the fourth year. The grant amount would cover roughly half of the annual cost of the officer’s $65,000-$85,000 salary and benefits. The City of Lander’s Gary Michaud wrote the grant.
Superintendent Mike Bowman said originally the thought was to combine the position with the school district’s dropout prevention coordinator, but further study determined the combined job would leave multiple aspects of both positions uncovered.
Bowman estimated over the first four years, the district’s costs would be $135,000 to $195,000. “That’s quite a bit of money,” he said. He said the board, if it wanted to fund the position, would need to figure out where from the budget to find the money.
“The question we should ask is can we afford not to fund this,” Trustee Ryan Hedges said. He said the board shouldn’t wait around for something bad to happen or feel like Lander is exempt from potential school violence.
While the school district would fund the position, Lander Police Chief Jim Carey said the officer would technically be a city employee. The majority of the officer’s time would be dedicated to the school district, with attendance at SRO conferences and other related activities during the summer.
Trustee Joe Palladino raised concern that the city wouldn’t be providing any funding for the officer. Carey said the city would provide his vehicle, fuel, training and firearms.
A re-occurring theme in the discussions was that current SRO Jake Conilogue is over-tasked. “I fear his burnout,” Carey said.
Baldwin Creek Elementary Principal Leslie Voxland and LVHS Principal Dr. Lisa Hafer both said that Conilogue does a great job, but that schools have to fight over him for his time.
Much talk about the position stemmed from a safety point of view, and Michaud said this is one of the most important projects he feels he’s ever worked. He showed the board photos of his two boys who are students in the district. Trustee Dave Clark and Chairman Brett Berg said the board needed to be careful and not believe that the hiring of a second SRO would provide ultimate protection for the students, but that it was a step in the right direction.
Carey said if the board approved the grant later this month, he could possibly have someone in the position by early next year.
Trustee Teresa Nirider thanked Bowman, Carey, Conilogue and others for making strides in the schools’ safety this year.