Praise, disappointment following Saratoga Springs schools vote to hire more school resource officers


GREENFIELD — Two additional school resource officers will begin working in the Saratoga Springs City School District in the coming weeks following a close vote by the Board of Education Tuesday evening.

It’s a decision that community members met with either applause or expressions of disappointment. 

In a 5-4 vote, the board decided to hire one additional officer from the Saratoga Springs City Police Department and one deputy from the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department to work at the district’s elementary schools.  

The move comes after months of meetings, during which community members voiced their desire to hire more officers, and the recent completion of a safety audit conducted by the district’s insurance company, which recommended adding two more officers, among other items. 

The addition of the officer and sheriff’s deputy bring the district’s total number of school resource officers to four; the other two officers already work in the district’s middle and high schools. 

Saratoga Springs City School District has 5,980 students enrolled who are spread across eight buildings while, according to data it provided, the City School District of Schenectady has three school resource officers who are responsible for around 9,300 students across 17 buildings. Schenectady schools have approved additional hiring for a total of six officers. Shenendehowa Central School District also has three school resource officers for its enrollment of around 9,500 students across 13 buildings.

Saratoga Springs City School District Board President Tony Krackeler, Vice President Natalya Lakhtakia and board members John Brueggemann and Anjeanette Emeka all voted against the hiring agreements.

Tensions rose during discussions about the two hiring agreements after two board members who were against approving the resolutions until they went through the budget process felt as if they were being attacked by other board members who were in favor of hiring the officers. 

“This is absolutely 100% not a dance to me,” Emeka said. “This is me being a public servant. I’m appalled that I would be called anti-police or have a hatred for law enforcement for trying to follow proper procedure.” 

Emeka went on to state that in a prior year where this was an issue, she and her family not only received threats, but also discovered that her residential address had been made public by people who deemed her anti-police. 

Brueggemann also decried sentiments by fellow board members. While noting he had supported adding more police officers when he previously campaigned for a seat on the board, he wanted to see how the cost of hiring more officers weighed out against other district costs.

Brueggemann’s and Ameka’s comments were in response to statements made by board members Connie Woytowich and Amanda Ellithorpe. 

Woytowich said board members have been changing the rules and practices the board follows in order to fit certain board members’ agendas. 

“I just think at this point people need to not only examine their bias, but admit it,” she said. “If you are anti-police, just say so. I’m done with the dance.” 

Ellithorpe expressed similar sentiments as Woytowich regarding the voting process on the issue. 

“The public should know that the overwhelming feedback we’ve received from our administration, parents and community members is in support of more SROs and the majority of the feedback we have received against them appears to be based in hatred of law enforcement,” she said. 

While board member John Ellis raised concerns about the agreement and the fact that the district will be footing the bill for the full costs of the two additional officers, he still voted in favor of hiring them. Ellis said both the county and city have funds to help pay for more officers in schools if they also see it as a necessary means of safety.

“Everybody complains about school taxes and lowering school taxes, yet here we are about to set a budget for the 2023-24 school year and we have to come up with $300,000 to have these officers here while the municipalities can well afford to be paying for it,” he said.

The school district will pay $74,285 for the additional officer from the city police department each year. That officer will begin Jan. 30 at a pro-rated cost for the rest of this school year, according to the district’s agreement with the department. That officer will be assigned to elementary schools within city limits: Caroline Street Elementary, Lake Avenue Elementary, Division Street Elementary and Geyser Road Elementary. 

The deputy will cost the district $75,419 per school year, according to the agreement. That officer will begin on Feb. 1 at a pro-rated cost of $37,709. 

Lakhtakia, who did not really speak on the issue Tuesday evening, declined to provide a reason for her vote Wednesday. 

“Our board guidelines dictate that individual board members do not comment to the press on board business, but I refer you to our president, Tony Krackeler, who is our board spokesperson,” she said in an email. “He can reply as to our processes and procedures.”

Krackeler said Lakhtakia has provided her stance in past meetings. 

Student representative Kate Thompson said the district hasn’t really spoken to the people who would be most impacted by the decision to get their thoughts: her peers. 

“I’ve talked to many students about this in particular and I know that there’s varying opinions, but none of them are being asked for in particular and I know it might not be the board’s direct duty to survey those kids, but I think that that’s a crucial step in this and something important that might be kind of missing,” she said. 

Following the vote, some community members, including Rebecca Lynch, expressed their disappointment in the board. 

“I’m not anti-police,” she said. “However, I do believe that as a school district we need to be spending our money on educating our students. There are many, many other things that we could be spending our money on that would have more of an impact on student safety than having police officers in our elementary schools.”

Others, like Mark Crockett, who has been an outspoken supporter of hiring more officers, praised the board. 

“I want to thank the board for voting positively on this tonight,” he said. “I’ve said this before, I don’t think it’s a budget issue. So, I agree with what one of the trustees said –- vote on the principle, vote on the recommendation and go figure out the budget.”

Categories: -News-, News, Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs

One Comment

Ignorant statement by Rebecca Lynch. Cops teach as well, do you really think they just stand guard in the hallways?
Your woke nonsense has run its course. Bu-bye. Let them do their jobs!

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