Janesville59.3°

Janesville School Board reinstates officers

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David Brazy
June 15, 2011
— Police Officers will be returning to Janesville's middle schools in the fall after the school board reversed an earlier decision to cut the positions.

Many members of the board changed their mind on the school resource officers at Tuesday's meeting. The board voted 6-3 in favor of returning all three officers, with board President Bill Sodemann and members Pete Severson and Scott Feldt voting no.


The board had unanimously voted to eliminate the three officers at an April 7 meeting earlier this year.


Board member DuWayne Severson said he made a mistake in his previous decision to cut the positions.


"I've been on the board for eight years and I only have one vote that I regret, and it's this one," DuWayne Severson said.


Board member Kevin Murray said removing the officers would increase the response time to any emergencies at the schools. He said all it would take is one incident.


"Four to five minutes or less can seem like an eternity," Murray said. "I don't think we need to compromise on public safety."


Board member Pete Severson questioned what changed between now and a few months ago when the board voted to cut the positions.


"I don't know what has changed since then. We are facing unprecedented budget problems," Pete Severson said. "No one is questioning the work of what these officers do. The response time will be less but there will still be police in the schools."


The three resources officers cost the district $124,258 for the 2010-11 school year, according to district records.


The board was given four options in a report prepared for them: reinstate all three officers, keep two officers for three schools, keep one officer for three schools or leave all three spots empty.


Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore told the board he understands and respects the difficult budget decision they were facing, but he said the SRO's were a good investment for the school and city.


"We can offer more (to students) by teaming up then we can by going it alone," Moore said.


Board member Karl Dommershausen said the officers were doing more than providing safety in the schools. They were also educating the kids and teaching them to respect the authorities.


"I've seen the results in nearby neighborhoods. The children used to be afraid when the police would drive down the street," Dommershausen said. "Now they wave and call out to the officers by name."


The board voted 5-4 to strike down an amendment that would have reinstated the officers until the end of October to give the board more time to figure out if it had the money to pay the officers.


IN OTHER BUSINESS

In other business Tuesday, the Janesville School Board:


-- Unanimously approved a document stating the board's legislative priorities. They include maintaining local control over school districts, supporting major reform for K-12 education funding and making sure special education needs are met.


-- Approved spending up to $4,000 for the administration to obtain an appraisal of the Education Services Center Property to find out its value. The city is considering buying the building to construct a new fire station.


-- Voted to approve the purchase of 11 new buses with three-point seat belts for the next school year. The vote was necessary to close a loophole in the district's contract with Van Galder Bus Company.


-- Heard an update on funding for the Elementary School Track meet. The school district will no longer cover the cost of the meet, which was estimated at $3,500.



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