Lange: WMHS program will need additional SRO

Posted:  Wednesday, November 8, 2017 - 12:00pm

Police Chief Jeffrey Lange shared his thoughts and concerns with the Wiscasset select board Tuesday night, about a plan for expanding Wiscasset Middle-High School’s special education program.

“I don’t feel security was ever looked at when this program was considered,” he said. It will strain the already overworked School Resource Officer possibly putting students and staff at risk, he said.

Lange said he had met with Superintendent of Schools Heather Wilmot on Oct. 31 to learn more about the pilot program to be funded through a $518,000 grant.

“I don’t believe security has been adequately considered,” Lange said. He added the Wiscasset Police Department has made six alcohol and drug-related arrests at the high school this year. “My concern is when this program starts there won’t be enough security for students or staff,” he added.

School Committee member Jason Putnam told the select board the program would initially involve about eight students. “There’ll be a clinical social worker, one or more special educators and support personnel hired,” he said. Putnam said concerns about safety and behavior issues were being “overblown.”

Select Board Chairman Judy Colby said she had read the agreement and was concerned what the costs would be to the community after the grant monies ran out. She pointed out the program was benefiting students who didn’t live in Wiscasset. “I agree every child deserves a chance but I’m looking at what it’s going to cost the taxpayers here.”

Kim Andersson, a teacher at Wiscasset Middle High School, said the program would be for students with behavior disorders. She felt the process to incorporate it into WMHS had lacked sufficient input from stakeholders within the community including the police chief and high school staff.

“There’s not a teacher in the high school that supports this,” she said. Andersson told the select board she lies awake at night worrying about the program and the negative impact it could have on the school department. “I don’t know what I can do other than speak out,” she said.

Selectman Katharine Martin-Savage suggested the board invite Wilmot to attend its next meeting. “The safety of the students, staff and SRO – that’s my primary concern.”

The select board presented a certificate of appreciation to retiring police officer Michael Smith for his 25 years of service to the department. Stephen P. Wallace of Brown Road was appointed to the Budget Committee. Wallace’s term expires in June 2018. A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9 in the hearing room to discuss a grant application seeking Environmental Protection Agency funding for brownfields cleanup of the former Mason Station property on Birch Point.

Wiscasset will observe Veterans’ Day 9 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 11 at the Veterans’ Memorial Wall next to the municipal building. The Town Office will be closed Friday, Nov. 1o in observance of Veterans’ Day.

The next meeting of the Public Downtown Advisory Committee is 5 p.m., Monday, Nov. 20.