Police Chief Keith Mello says he backs the hiring of a security coordinator for the city’s schools, noting that the position will ensure “continuity and focus to the important matter of school security.”

When School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser presented her proposed budget for 2015-16 earlier this week, she asked for money to create the new position within the school district, as well as to hire greeters for the middle schools and two additional school resource officers, all to address security issues in a post-Sandy Hook environment.

Security coordinator

The security coordinator would oversee security in all of the city's 14 schools and would come at a price tag of $70,000.

“Security in all school systems across the state has risen to new heights post Sandy Hook and other tragedies and threats to schools across the nation,” Dr. Feser wrote in her budget presentation. “The state has now mandated safety committees be in place in each school, and requires documentation and reporting of incidents.”

She said the new security coordinator will work with the Milford Police Department, ensure compliance with state security mandates, oversee crisis response plans and drills, organize yearly training for district employees, and handle building and infrastructure improvements.

The person will also plan for future improvements required by the State School Safety Infrastructure Council.

The security coordinator would be employed solely by the Board of Education, unlike the school resource officers who work for the police department even though they work within the city schools. The school board and police department split their salaries.

Chief Mello said he has had a number of conversations with school officials about the position, which he said he “endorses completely.”

“The Police Department has been providing significant resources toward school security and we will continue to provide assistance to the schools in the future,” Mello said. “However, the area of school security continues to expand, especially with some of the state mandates directed at school security. Our schools are fully compliant with theses mandates thanks to the partnership that exists between the schools and the Police Department. Having a dedicated security coordinator will certainly take some of the burden away from the police and can only strengthen the partnership that already exists.”

Selection of the right person is critical, Mello said.

“I have already consulted with the Board of Education regarding the qualifications that we believe would be helpful in this position,” he said. “In my view, prior law enforcement experience is an important variable when we are talking about keeping people safe and working within established law enforcement channels. Ideally, a candidate that has also worked in an educational environment and has some degree of supervisory experience would be well suited for this role.”

School resource officers

Adding greeters and additional school resource officers would also address security, Feser said when presenting her budget.

Today there are four school resource officers (SROs) — uniformed and armed officers who work in the schools. She is requesting $75,000 in her budget proposal to cover two additional officers, and noted that hiring them would be contingent on the police department's budget supplying the other half of their salaries.

Greeters

Also to address safety and security, Feser wants to add three greeters to the middle schools for a total cost of $49,500. There are greeters in the elementary schools, and Feser said they have helped “immensely” in making the schools inviting, making sure visitors are signed in and making sure that someone knows why the visitor is there.

Budget plan

The total proposed spending plan for the schools for 2015-16 stands at $91.17 million, up 2.19% from the current $89.21 million budget.

The school board is expected to vote Wednesday, Jan. 21, on whether to back Feser's budget proposal or make adjustments to it.

After the school board adopts a budget plan, that plan goes to the Board of Finance in February for review and then to the Board of Aldermen in April, in preparation for adopting a new city/school budget mid-May.