SAD 41 officials to consider adding school resource officer

Stuart Hedstrom, Piscataquis Observer • January 9, 2020

MILO — The details, including where the necessary funding would come from, are still all to be determined but officials in SAD 41 are considering creating a resource officer position to work across the three district schools. The possibility was a topic of discussion during a Jan. 8 school board meeting at the Penquis Valley School.

In the region both the Dexter-based SAD 46 and RSU 68/Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft have school resource officers who are members of the respective town police departments

Superintendent Michael Wright said when he worked as an administrator at Ellsworth High School there was a resource officer in the building. “I saw a great benefit to it and I think it’s like a lot of positions in that the person determines the success of it,” he said.

Wright said he has had preliminary discussions with the Milo Police Department about the idea, such as how the town and school district could share the costs. “I think they have been in the schools quite often,” he said. “Maybe it’s something we could look at in the upcoming budget process.”

For nearly half a decade SAD 41 has submitted a grant application to the East Millinocket-based Gloria C. MacKenzie Foundation, which through its mission and vision hopes to improve economic growth and enhance the quality of life for the people of Maine, for a school resource officer position. Wright said these applications have not been successful but the plan is to apply again in 2020.

“It’s just another person students could seek out when they’re having issues,” Penquis Valley High School Principal Michael Rollins said. “I think of them more as a resource rather than a police officer enforcing behavior.”

“I think it’s building relationships where they’re feeling safe,” board member Chris Hamlin said.

Wright said having the school resource officer in the building would allow the police department to have a presence beyond responding to incidents. “I always think you will never know what they deter,” he added, mentioning the officer would be in uniform and be fully equipped.

Rollins was asked if Milo Police Chief Damien Pickel might consider having a school resource officer for SAD 41. “I think it’s certainly something he would be interested in,” the principal said, saying there could be room set up in the building for the police department even if the new position is not started. 

“I think it’s something we would like to explore more,” Wright said. “We will meet with Chief Pickel to get some more information and talk more about it.”

In other business, the directors voted to continue the district partnership with the Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative for the 2020-21 academic year. SAD 41 costs will be determined and the funds will be part of the next school budget. The current program budget is nearly $411,500, divided between the four member districts.

During the December meeting, the board learned more about the Cooperative from Director Thelma Regan.

Residents of the region looking to improve their lives through various academic and career programs can do so through the Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative, while also having the opportunity to take college courses through Eastern Maine Community College and the University of Maine-Augusta in the same building as the cooperative’s main office at the Penquis Higher Education Center on Mayo Street in Dover-Foxcroft.

Those looking for something fun and interesting to do can take part in a number of the cooperative’s enrichment courses, which like the academics are offered in Dover-Foxcroft as well as other locations across an approximate 1,000-square mile region in Milo, Dexter, Guilford, Monson and Greenville. 

SAD 41 is joined by SAD 4 of Guilford, SAD 46 and RSU 68 in the adult education organization.

In his report Rollins said, “This morning I got a really exciting email.”

He said earlier in the year the Council of International Education Exchange gave a presentation at the school, and now the group has awarded scholarships to enable three students to study abroad this summer. Rollins said one pupil will travel to learn about the language and culture of Argentina, another will study K-Pop in person in South Korea and the third’s scholarship is for being fully immersed in Italian language and culture across the Atlantic.

“The three students are extremely excited,” Rollins said. He said additional program scholarship funds could come from the Harold Alfond Foundation.

Milo Elementary Principal Angela Kelley said for the pre-kindergarten enrollment, “We’re full at 32, so that’s 16 a.m. and 16 p.m.” Kelley said the program may be expanded from four to five days next year, but this will be discussed more moving forward.

“Soon we will be starting the whole budget process again, I know it seems like we just finished with that,” Wright said in his superintendent’s report. “We have already reached out to our principals to talk to staff for more information.”