Tough times are here and as Fred Rich, Oakdale Joint Unified School District Superintendent put it, “The fluff is all gone and it has been for quite a while.”
The cuts barreling down the pipe are being found in flesh and blood, not in the supply closet, and it was either teachers or campus cops.
And the decision — though regretful — was marked with a clear path.
The School Resource Officer (SROs) positions held by Max Messina and Joseph Parreira were chopped from the school budget, freeing up $80,000 for the district to funnel elsewhere.
“The SRO cuts were already factored into the 15 percent cut,” Parreira said. “Ultimately, the school district had to go back to its primary function and that’s educating students. If it comes down to officers or teachers getting cut, you know, at the school, it should be the officers.”
The SRO position was a three-year commitment with the district and the police department splitting the cost of the two officers who were primarily stationed at the junior high and high school campuses with regular visits to the elementary campuses. While Messina was in his final year and scheduled to rotate out, Parreira had two more years in his commitment. The plan for the moment, is to put the two officers into investigations to clear up the back log of cases but this is only a temporary measure as the current budgetary proposal for the police department will include whittling the investigations division down to one detective.
While Parreira understands the district’s decision, he said having an officer on campus went a long way toward deterring crime, particularly at the high school campus.
“Today, it’s almost a necessity to have an officer on campus because it is a deterrent. Even with officers there, things go on but the potential is heightened when there’s no SROs,” Parreira said.
Rich responded, saying, “The decision was strictly economical. We were able to spare the SROs in the last round of cuts but to trim the budget we’ve had to shift funding and reduce (work) force to find the savings. The SROs were very effective and we’ve had no problem with cooperation with the police department. We’re going to miss that presence. It was a difficult but necessary decision.”
Rich said the money previously spent on the SROs would be spent on campus monitors.
“We just couldn’t afford to keep both,” Rich said. “But the teachers, administrators and campus monitors will certainly be able to enforce school rules and student safety will not be an issue. The police department has assured us that they will provide quick response time if there’s ever an issue.”