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School Resource Officer Program Coming to Westford Academy

In the light of last week's tragedy in Connecticut, the Westford School Committee concludes their discussion on bringing a School Resource Officer to Westford Academy.

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.

Tammy Fannon December 19, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Great Article! Agraz will do a great job as SRO
Diane December 19, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I agree with Amber. Who ever suspected that this would happen in an elementary school. It would make ALL children feel safer as well as build trust at all ages to report any behavior that appears suspicious. Students need to be reminded that it is their duty to report any events that could affect the safety of such a large population in attendance.
Rob Neigler December 20, 2012 at 10:01 AM
I hope we do budget the money next year and support Superintendant Olsen's recommendation to staff ALL our schools with full time SRO so that we can provide our students the most security possible.
Mike December 20, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Rob, as much as I'd like to see that happen, there's no way that the crusty town gadflies are going to approve a measure that would be an additional $500,000-$600,000 annually -- just in salaries. Add in training and equipment and the the initial costs would likely come close to $1 million, but would creep down in subsequent years. The entire police budget is $4.1 million. The crusties would flip.
Alex Finnegan April 13, 2013 at 05:54 PM
I think we're going a overboard here. The number of kids dying in school is low http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/schoolviolence/savd.html Aside from periodic spikes there has been little change since 1992. In fact we have been at a lower rate for the past few years. You are about 4x more likely to be struck by lightning than to die a violent death at school. I don't think putting a cop at each school is even a deterrent. Most shootings happen during transition times or before/after school. A cop can only be in one place at a time. How easy is it to just be in a different part of the school. Many perpetrators of violence like this commit suicide at the end. How much cooler is suicide by cop. These perps know they aren't going home. They are trying to make a statement (twisted as it is) How much more so would pulling a stunt like this at a school w/a cop posted make them famous. For the small amount of deaths there are (I know an innocent child's death is horrific) Many times the perp has assault weapons. A cop with a glock is going to be able to do very little against that. Is it worth changing our kids perception of school by placing armed cops in Elementary schools? We already have them do drills in preparation of a shooting. If a cop can't stop it at some school somewhere, what's next? If you do this & it doesn't work are you going to step up your efforts or just drop it. Human nature is to step it up. What's the next step?

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