As the country continues to mourn last Friday’s tragic events, the Westford School Committee met on Monday evening to conclude discussion of the installation of a School Resource Officer (SRO) at Westford Academy.
The proposed SRO was recommended by the board in September, and became possible for this year thanks to fiscal adjustments approved at Fall Town Meeting.
After a moment of silence to open the meeting, Superintendent Everett Olsen, Jr. and the School Committee members discussed methods to increase school safety both in the short term and long term.
“Nothing is fool proof in life but we are going to be as responsible towards security as any school system in the country”, Olsen said.
Westford Academy Principal Jim Antonelli, with assistance from Detective Sergeant David Connell and Westford Chief of Police Tom McEnaney, presented the SRO program to the committee.
Principal Antonelli said the SRO program was originally developed under for Superintendent John Crisafulli and retired Police Chief Robert Welch.
Chief McEnaney stated that Patrolman Justin Agraz has accepted the position as the SRO after a thorough interview process in which Antonelli was directly involved.
Agraz, who served in the Marine Corps and graduated from Westford Academy, shall perform a multitude of duties including working closely with the Westford Academy administration, visiting classrooms to discuss various topics of law as well as interacting with students during lunch time, and providing enforcement and education with regards to substance abuse.
One of the biggest challenges he will face is building relationships and gaining the trust of students so that they will feel comfortable discussing potential issues with Agraz that he and the Westford Police Department will need to be made aware. Antonelli believes the confidentiality component will be a critical part of the program.
Connell said that the current SRO program at Nashoba Valley Technical High School is “having good success” in that area but the officer’s primary function “is the safety and well-being of students and staff.”
Chief McEnaney informed the committee that to perform his job effectively, Agraz will be “one hundred percent armed. That’s not negotiable.”
In the event of a crisis, Agraz will be the first responder until additional officers can provide reinforcements.
Agraz is scheduled to begin as soon as possible but no later than February according to Chief McEnaney.