School safety dominated discussion at a joint meeting last week of the City Council and the San Marino Unified School District Board of Education, specifically on the viability of sharing the employment of one or more school resource officers to provide security at local campuses.
Outgoing district Super-intendent Alex Cherniss told the council that the school system was analyzing safety and security issues as part of a wider facilities assessment and was awaiting input on that report from local first responders.
“That report looked at the physical plan of all the schools and also looked at other options for securing our schools,” he said. “We’ve given the report to your police chief and fire chief for comment. Once we get those back, we’ll get that ready for presentation at the board.
“There are examples of cities funding resource officers for the schools, so we are compiling that information as well,” Cherniss continued. “Before we come to the city for a request, we’re going to want to have a lot of information.”
The issue of resource officers involves two governments, as the personnel would be drawn from the San Marino Police Department. City Manager Marcella Marlowe said those officers would be specially trained for their role, if hired.
“This would be a new officer position, not taken from our existing pool,” she added.
Cherniss, who is leaving the school district next week, said the two parties could discuss logistics on how many such officers could be employed at each school when more information is available. He noted that San Marino, with an area of less than four square miles, typically boasts response times within two minutes, which makes staffing options more flexible.
The presence of resource officers, Cherniss continued, also adds a curriculum dynamic, with safety and substance abuse topics being a focus. They also can be authoritative mediators when issues involving child custody and restraining orders arise.
“Parents feel very connected to the school resource officer and students do as well,” said Cherniss, speaking from his experience as a principal. “Students are not afraid of the police officer because they see them more as another teacher. It’s a great dynamic you have at the school site.
“At school sites, oftentimes you will have conflict among adults, and a school resource officer is a great person to handle those concerns and alleviate them before they become issues,” he added.
The two entities appeared ready to find efficiencies in possibly implementing the addition. Board member Chris Norgaard observed that the Huntington Middle School and Valentine Elementary School campuses are right next to each other. Councilman Ken Ude noted that both governments had to be careful about competing financially for the same pot of money from city residents.
“Those financial resources are limited and we need to work together to decide how best to allocate them,” he said.