City Withdraws Funding of SMSD Security

City Withdraws Funding of SMSD Security
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STAFFORD -- Ever since the Stafford Municipal School District opened its doors to students in 1982, the City of Stafford had a strong commitment to ensuring the safety of Stafford MSD students, faculty and staff. The City has paid for School Resource Officers (SRO) to serve the SMSD Community.

We are shocked, saddened and quite frankly, deeply concerned, with a recent Stafford City Council decision at its July 25 meeting. By a vote of 6-1, the Stafford City Council chose to stop paying $185,193 for three Stafford Police Officers to serve as SROs at Stafford MSD.

This is an unprecedented move in the history of Stafford and one that works against the District’s commitment to safety. With less than a month until the 2018-19 school year begins, the District was blindsided by an irresponsible decision that will affect our entire community.

Dr. Robert Bostic has made school safety a top priority since he became Stafford MSD’s Superintendent in 2014. He has worked with the United States Secret Service to create a security plan for the District and ensured that additional security measures were included in the School Bond, which passed last November.

But all of those strong initiatives are not possible, without the support of Stafford’s City Council.

Stafford MSD Board of Trustees President Christopher Caldwell called a Special Board Meeting for Thursday, August 2 to discuss this matter specifically.

“Last night’s decision dampers our ability to provide school safety to our students, faculty and staff,” Caldwell said. “As President of the Board, it is my top priority to provide a safe environment for our kids. We will continue to work with the city to provide that safe environment. I am disappointed that the City decided to change course after 37 years of supporting school safety at SMSD.”

Board Vice President Xavier Herrera was deeply troubled by the decision as well.

“Without a clear plan in place or availability of discussion prior to the vote is consciously irresponsible,” Herrera said. “Playing politics in today’s climate places our students and staff in unnecessary danger.”

Board Secretary Alicia Lacy-Castille said the decision was especially upsetting, considering recent school tragedies in Texas and nationally.

“My initial response was shock and disbelief, with a heavy heart,” Lacy-Castille said. “It is unconscionable to think that the City would strategically time the announcement of withdrawing the funding, before the start of school.”

Trustee Greg Holsapple, who began serving on the SMSD Board of Trustees in the early 1990s, said it’s surprising, considering the City’s longtime support of security in SMSD.

“Furnishing the School Resource Officers is something the City wanted to do to improve safety on campus,” Holsapple said. “That is something that the city has boasted about for years. It’s been a feather in their cap. That is why I am perplexed as to why they would change course, especially on such an important matter." 

Trustee Auturo Jackson, the immediate past Board President, went on to say that the vote was conducted without prior notice, planning, or discussion. 

“Since joining the SMSD Board over five years ago, I have labored tirelessly along with Dr. Bostic and the Board to work cooperatively with Mayor Scarcella and City personnel.   However, Mayor Scarcella and certain individuals at the City continue to try and undermine the tremendous accomplishments students, teachers, parents, and community members are achieving.  Last night, Mayor Scarcella and City personnel presented City Council with a legal opinion that would require the City to stop providing Stafford police officers on SMSD campuses as they have done for years.”

“The safety of school children should not be used as part of Mayor Scarcella’s desire to control SMSD or cover for financial challenges the City faces under his leadership,” Jackson said. “Finally, I am confident that the overwhelming majority of City Council will do the right thing.  They are good people who will work with us to find a solution that allows the District and the City to keep our school students and teachers safe.”

Trustee Manuel Hinojosa, a Stafford native, said the Council’s decision was shocking, especially considering the upcoming 2018-19 budget vote.

“The Stafford Municipal School District and the City of Stafford have a long and historic relationship of almost 40 years,” Hinojosa said. “Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads regarding the financial management of our district and the safety of our children. While, I am disappointed in the apparent haste of this action, I trust that our SMSD Board of Trustees and Superintendent Dr. Robert Bostic will work collaboratively to find common ground to address the true mission that we have all been called to serve – the education and safety of our Stafford MSD children.”

Trustee Jacqueline Jean-Baptiste echoed the sentiments expressed by her fellow trustees and vowed to work toward a resolution that would keep students and staff safe in 2018-19 and in future years.