Renewal of Urbana School Resource Officers on City Council | Courts-police-firefighters
URBANA — After close approval from the Urbana school board, the district school resource officer contract is headed to the city council.
Aldermen will also vote on the deal because, unlike the last three-year contract — where the district paid in full for an Urbana officer to be assigned full-time to its middle and high schools — the city is expected to cover 25% cost this time around.
Mayor Diane Marlin hopes to put the item on the city council’s agenda by the June 21 meeting, 10 days before the start of the intergovernmental agreement.
“I hope it passes,” she said Tuesday. “It is extremely important for our schools.
The school board voted 4-3 to keep the officers on for another three years. The agreement is nearly the same, aside from additions calling for officers to serve as “liaison(s) between the school district and the Urbana Police Department” and to take the lead whenever a weapon is discovered. by the high school’s newly installed metal detectors.
The first year of the deal will cost the district $270,000.
“I really appreciate the city helping us, seeing the great need and helping us financially,” school board member Brenda Carter said after the vote.
Before the district transitioned to its two-officer model in 2019, the city fully paid a part-time officer for all schools.
“The city is absolutely committed to this program,” said acting police chief Richard Surles. “We have been committed to this for three decades. We believe that an (intergovernmental agreement) is appropriate to move forward.
The vote came around the fifth hour of Tuesday night’s board meeting, after nearly three hours of discussion about the future of Urbana’s bilingual Spanish elementary education program, which pushed back the rest of the agenda.
Board members who voted “no” to keep school resource officers — Lara Orr, Ravi Hasanadka and Anne Hall — each questioned whether the district’s data on the program paints a clear enough picture to renew the contract.
Orr suggested shortening the agreement to one year to “strengthen” the district’s success metrics for the program.
“Part of what we’re ensuring and part of what we’re trying to accommodate by making more clear measurements and metrics is that, yes, technically they’re not our employees, but we put a lot of responsibility and confidence that if these particular SROs are not in our buildings, we can have the same level of accountability,” she said.
The survey data presented by the district at the last board meeting focused on whether staff and students supported the current officers — Michelle Robinson in middle school and Chad Burnett in high school — not whether they supported the program in its whole.
Although the high school survey, which got responses from 158 students and 101 staff, showed overwhelming support for Burnett, Hasanadka implored the district for more specific and robust data in the poll.
“Do a better job with the polls if you want this to pass in the future,” he said.
Just before the vote, Hall read a prepared statement detailing his opposition to the program.
“I have not seen any kind of tested and generalized data, beyond the anecdotal, that shows that a police presence – however benevolent it is intentionally – has a proven effect in reducing violence or increased safety in all schools in general, and in Urbana schools specifically,” she said. “I will continue to request this information.”