Indian River board seeks more time, data on Millsboro SRO proposal

MILLSBORO — Anticipated annexation of East Millsboro Elementary School into the town of Millsboro has spurred discussion of a potential partnership to staff a school resource officer.

Millsboro Police Chief Brian Calloway proposed the partnership between the town and the Indian River School District at the Dec. 16 board of education meeting.

While school board members expressed interest, many said they wanted more time to vet the proposal, which comes at a projected cost of $72,036.

“I think I prefer to come back in January to be quite honest,” said IRSD Superintendent Mark Steele. “I think we need a little bit more time to look at this and see where we are going to go as a district. I like the proposal. And I can tell you the town of Millsboro has been absolutely great to us. They have been fantastic.”

The district is less than two months away from a major capital referendum that if approved would shuffle the district’s middle and elementary school makeup.

Chief Calloway, who served as Millsboro Middle School SRO for several years starting in 2000, is hopeful for a decision in time to interview and have an officer candidate in the police academy this spring, Mr. Steele said. That officer would replace the Millsboro officer assigned to the SRO position.

One financial concern addressed by several board members — and district resident Robert Maloney during public commentary at the meeting — was the structure of the contract presented by Millsboro Police Department. The proposal includes salary for 12 months.

“The school district only runs 10 months,” said Mr. Maloney. “I think it could be done better — renegotiated. I have no doubt in the wonderful police that Millsboro has. But at this time there is plenty of time for conversation and I haven’t heard any conversations from either … the finance committee or anywhere else.”

Board member Gerald Peden said, “I personally think we need a lot more discussion, and as Mr. Maloney has said we’re spending more than what we are taking in.”

The board voted to table the issue and revisit it in January.

Currently, IRSD has five School Resource Officers. Delaware State Police staff Sussex Central High School, Indian River High School and the Carver Center. Georgetown Police Department’s SRO covers four schools in that town and Selbyville Police Department provides one SRO for Selbyville Middle School, Phillip Showell Elementary and Southern Delaware School of the Arts.

According to Mr. Steele, IRSD pays state police SROs $86,628 each, Selbyville’s $52,000 and Georgetown’s $81,000. “So, this would still be about $8,000 less than Georgetown,” he said.

Mr. Steele noted that the Georgetown SRO is a 12-month position, currently held by SRO Det. Joey Melvin, who runs a summer academy for youth and other activities over the summer break.

The SRO for the Selbyville schools works for the town police during the summer months doing patrol and other duties, IRSD spokesman David Maull said.

Det. Melvin, based at Georgetown Middle School, also covers Georgetown Elementary, North Georgetown and Howard T. Ennis.

“Is there a proposal in Millsboro where (the new SRO) is going to be working for us in the summer as well?” board member James Fritz asked.

Mr. Steele said Millsboro’s plan is to “mirror” the program at Georgetown.

“That is absolutely correct,” Millsboro Police Lt. Robert Legates, substituting for Chief Calloway, who was on vacation. “There will be several programs. The chief has actually already applied for funds to do a youth academy, very similar to what Georgetown has done.”

Factoring into the equation is IRSD’s transition of G.W. Carver Academy’s alternative school program after the current 2019-20 school year. Most students will be housed at the two high schools.

“We would have to look at the structure of the current police placement we have around our district and decide do we want to continue with three of the Delaware state troopers, or do we want to take a look at a different structure altogether,” said Mr. Steele.

“If we are aware that Carver is closing, we can anticipate a little bit greater workload at some of our high schools …,” said board member Rodney Layfield, a captain with Delaware State Police. “I am fairly familiar with the numbers. I’m thinking our drivers for our SROs if you go in rank order are the two high schools. And I think Millsboro middle school is busier than the other two middle schools.”

Mr. Layfield suggested the board table the SRO matter until the board has firm numbers and data, possibly even until after the referendum outcome.

“I’m sure that the Millsboro people here would not like to hear that, but I think it would be a much easier decision upon us depending on the outcome of the referendum,” Mr. Layfield said.

IRSD’s major capital improvement referendum, set for Thursday, Feb. 13, seeks voter approval to fund with a 60/40 state/local ratio construction of a new Sussex Central High School, with 2,200 student capacity. Total cost is $146 million, with a local share of $58,437,700.

With referendum passage, the district plans to utilize the current Sussex Central High School building for middle school. The Millsboro Middle School building would become an elementary school.

That would mean two elementary schools in Millsboro, creating a new SRO scenario for the district.

“So, the SRO would be covering two elementary schools?” Mr. Peden asked.

Yes, said Mr. Steele, noting IRSD in the past has not placed an SRO exclusively “in elementary schools anywhere else.”

Mr. Maull said it is important to note that with referendum passage and at some point, several years down the road with two elementary schools in Millsboro’s town limits, the district will have to redraw some attendance boundaries.

“We’re going to have to tweak some attendance boundaries just within the northern end of the district to determine which kids go to which school,” said Mr. Maull. “That redistricting wouldn’t involve moving kids to the southern end of the district. It would just be redistricting within the northern end of the district.”

The East Millsboro Elementary School annexation process has crossed the committee report bridge, with a Jan. 6 public hearing on deck.

Objective

With annexation and if approved by the IRSD, the Millsboro police officer would provide a sworn department member to initiate this program for the 2020-21 school year. Officers eligible for this program must have a minimum of three years of service and would need a recommendation from their supervisor, according to Chief Calloway’s proposal.

Additionally, through this selection process officers will be required to participate in an interview process with the Town of Millsboro’s Personnel Committee. Once selected, this officer will be required to receive training the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). All training cost for the hiring and initial training of a new officer will be encumbered by the Town of Millsboro, Chief Calloway said.

The SRO would be assigned to Millsboro Middle School and East Millsboro Elementary School during the academic school year and also be required to attend any mandatory staff meetings when requested, and will also be restricted in taking any leave, or training while school is in session.

The SRO would also be granted statewide law enforcement through the Delaware Department of Justice, to assist the SRO with handling school related issues which occur off school property (ie. transportation and all other bus stop related issues).

Additional goals would be working to students and staff to create a safe learning environment, initiate youth programs, provide security at all school sporting events, attend all mandatory staff meetings, parent teacher meetings and make educational presentations on youth related issues.