SARATOGA SPRINGS – A parent group backing a slate of three Saratoga Springs school board on Wednesday released a two-minute digital ad focused on school safety and a call to rearm district grounds monitors.
The ad – part of a campaign effort that has raised over $33,000 to support the trio of candidates – was published to YouTube and could serve as part of a digital advertising effort aimed at turning out voters supportive of rearming grounds monitors for the May 21 school board election.
Featuring local news footage from when the school board voted not to authorize the monitors to again carry firearms on school grounds interspersed with national news footage from the Parkland and Newtown school shootings, the ad focuses squarely on the central issue in a contentious school board race.
A “paid for by” tag at the end of the ad credits Saratoga Parents for Safer Schools, a group formed after the school board in October voted against granting approval for the district grounds monitors to carry guns on school grounds. The group and slate of candidates enter the last three weeks of the campaign with a large financial advantage over other candidates in the race and the help of a Florida-based Republican political consultant, to whom the group has paid over $9,000, according to April campaign finance filings.
The ad, which the group called “Less Safe Now,” criticizes the board’s 5-to-4 decision against rearming the monitors, arguing the decision, in the words of the group’s chief organizer Kara Rosettie, “shows how much they (board members) don’t care about our children’s security.”
The ad also prominently features an answer Saratoga’s assistant police chief John Catone gave when asked at a board meeting whether he thought the district’s students were less safe or more safe with the monitors no longer carrying weapons. The question was posed by Ed Moore, a former Saratoga police chief and supporter of armed monitors.
“I think you’re less safe now,” Catone said at the December meeting.
The second part of the ad features the three school board candidates – Shaun Wiggins, Ed Cubanski and Dean Kolligian – standing together and talking straight to the camera, criticizing the board’s decision and promising to overturn it.
“The school board didn’t listen to the experts,” Cubanski said.
“There have been bad policy decisions that have made our children less safe,” Wiggins added.
The ad zeroes in on police response time to active shooter events – with a featured national news clip outlining the nine minutes it took for police to enter Sandy Hook Elementary school during a terrible massacre there – and claims it would take over seven minutes for Saratoga police to respond to “an emergency in our schools.”
Rosettie said that response time was calculated as an average of 12 months of police call and response time data her group collected through a public records request filled by Saratoga police.
Lt. Robert Jillson, Saratoga police spokesman, on Wednesday said the police department does not have an estimate or average response time for responding to district schools. He said the actual response time would depend on what else was happening at the time of an incident and how law enforcement officers happened to be distributed across the city. Jillson said he thinks the department could respond faster than seven minutes but that emergency response planning is focused on how multiple agencies will coordinate to neutralize a threat as quickly as possible.
“We would have boots on the ground right away, there is a lot that goes into this – what is going on in the city at that time,” he said. “What we are looking to do is stop the killing.”
The ad closes with Kolligian promising to “bring back common sense security that undoubtedly will protect our children,” and asking district residents to vote “Shaun, Ed, and Dean.”