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Forestville, Pine Valley Are Eliminating School Resource Officers

Officer Rich Grant will no longer be the school resource officer for Forestville. The school had to cut his position due to budget constraints. Submitted photo

Pine Valley and Forestville are the latest schools that are cutting school resource officers.

During the Chautauqua County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee meeting Wednesday, legislators approved contracts for three school resource officers — two for BOCES and one for Silver Creek Central School.

Forestville was on the agenda to renew its school resource officer, however committee members were told the school opted to not renew its contract with the county.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the uncertainty about the state aid and reductions,” said Undersheriff Darryl Braley.

In July, Sheriff Jim Quattrone told the OBSERVER that Maple Grove, Cassadaga Valley, Brocton and Frewsburg had all made the decision not to have a school resource officer for this school year. Along with Silver Creek and BOCES, Pine Valley and Forestville both expressed their plans at that time to having a school resource officer this fall. Pine Valley was not on the public safety committee’s agenda. Legislators were told they also made the decision to cut their school resource officer as well.

Some school districts in the county have school resource officers with other police departments. That is the case with Jamestown, Falconer, Southwestern, Dunkirk and Westfield. Fredonia Central School has school safety adviser, who is a member of their staff.

In July Quattrone said Chautauqua Lake, Panama, Sherman, Clymer and Ripley did not have school resource officers.

Forestville School Superintendent Renee Garrett spoke with the OBSERVER over the summer and praised their SRO, Officer Rich Grant. After the school district made the decision this month to cut the position, Garrett sent a statement to the OBSERVER expressing her disappointment that they were unable to keep him.

“This is a major loss for our school system. We have held on as long as we can. However, now with the latest financial information from the state we have no choice. We received our first series of payments from the state and the state is withholding 20% of our aid. I would encourage everyone to lobby for school funding at the federal level. We need this program! If the federal funding does not come through, we will be experiencing even more difficult decisions,” she said in her statement.

She also emailed the sheriff to express her thankfulness of their SRO. “We absolutely love Officer Grant. Rich has been a tremendous resource for our students, parents, and staff. I’m still very upset that we are being forced to make this decision due to lack of funding. … It is my greatest hope that we are able to reinstate this position if the federal funding restores our 20% withholding of aid. I’m sincerely sorry that we are not able to keep Officer Grant. He has done an amazing job in our school system. He will always be a part of our Forestville family,” she wrote.

Like Forestville, Pine Valley School Superintendent Bryna Moritz Booth said the decision to cut the school resource officer was strictly budgetary. “We absolutely loved Deputy (Brian) Hanner.

But we just have to make sure we’re being fiscally responsible to our taxpayers in the community,” she said in a phone call Thursday.

Should Pine Valley’s funding be restored in the future, Booth said they would look at reinstating the position. At this point, she said, there’s too much uncertainty.

The Public Safety Committee approved the resolutions for the SRO contracts for Silver Creek and BOCES. The resolutions will now be forwarded to the full legislature for final approval.

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