Police, PJUSD at odds over school security
by Nick Rappley | Patterson Irrigator
Mar 26, 2014 | 2346 views | 0 0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Supervisors from Patterson Police Services and leaders from the Patterson Joint Unified School District are offering differing sides to an unfolding story regarding the district’s intention to form its own private security department and discontinue contracting for a deputy from the city of Patterson. The district board voted 6-0 in favor of hiring a consultant for the 2014-2015 school year at a school board meeting March 3. One board member was absent.

Patterson Joint Unified Superintendent Phil Alfano said this week that the school district has made known for some time it’s displeasure to keep a contract with the city and Stanislaus Sheriff’s Department to provide a deputy for Patterson Schools.

Their issue is with the deputy’s attendance record.

Alfano said he has made known his discontent on the issue since at least the fall of 2012, stating all along that the school district had been contemplating replacing the deputy with the district’s own private unarmed staff.

The issue isn’t with how the SRO performs, he said, but the frequency with which he’s gone. The district pays about $90,000 a year for an officer to be present during the school year. That adds up to roughly 70 percent of the salary and benefits for an officer.

“We will now have three people on the ground rather than part of one,” Alfano said, who is not opposed to bringing a deputy back in the future if the district can secure a grant.

Alfano stated in written documents prepared for the Irrigator that attendance had ranged from 77 percent to 88 percent depending on the school year and other factors. He stated that up to Monday, March 17, that the SRO had not been present on campus for a total of 32 of the district’s 138 school days, averaging a 77 percent attendance record.

Patterson Police Chief Tori Hughes retorted that the SRO had been substituted for 10 of those days by another deputy trained to work in schools and who was the previous SRO for Patterson Schools. She also pointed out that the SRO took students on “ride alongs” for senior prep projects during Christmas vacation, and, in essence, worked with school kids during a time when the city was footing the bill for the deputy.

She said if you added the amount of time the SRO was on campus or working with students, it would be an 89 percent attendance record.

Not all of the time, but many times there is a substitute deputy. Not any deputy can fill in on the school campus, because they must have additional training to serve a school role, she said.

In the event that a security guard is on vacation or must take sick leave, Hughes indicated there could be a burden around the city because there would be additional calls to the schools.

Security guards cannot handle criminal complaints, she said, which must be written by a deputy. There were 68 criminal cases on school grounds in the 2012-2013 school year, she said. Instead of having an SRO to handle the criminal complaints, the school will have to get in line like everyone else and wait for an outside deputy to show up and write a report.

Hughes also said, as far as the city knew, the school district was hiring security in addition to the deputy.

She said when district officials brought up the issue in meetings with the city, replacing the SRO was not discussed. Instead, district officials talked about hiring additional security staff or language in the contract between the city and the district to ensure coverage.

Alfano said he has been discussing the matter with the city since the spring of 2012 shortly after he was named superintendent. He said he has been clear in many meetings between the city and the district, stating if contract language was not shored up to ensure SRO attendance every day, then the district would consider hiring its own staff.

Hughes said the district had not informed the city about hiring their own staff and excluding funding for an SRO until Feb. 28 by email.

Assistant Superintendent Shawn Posey stated he informed members of a joint meeting between the district and the city in October that the possibility of moving on without an SRO existed.

Alfano produced a letter that he stated was distributed to all parties at that meeting. If a new contract was not drafted, he said, the partnership between the city and district for an SRO would not continue.

Alfano said in that email that his staff had informed representatives from Patterson Police Services during a joint city/school district meeting on Jan. 23 that the district would be moving forward with an SRO.

Chief Hughes was out on medical leave during that meeting.

Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten said at that meeting the district only indicated it was going to add security.

“They never really talked about dropping the SRO,” she said, noting they discussed adding security for greater coverage. “They felt they weren’t getting the percentage of attendance.”

Nick Rappley can be reached at 209-568-9975 or nick@pattersonirrigator.com.
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