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OFA School Resource Officer in his last week

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Patrolman Robert J. Grady has served as the School Resource Officer at the Ogdensburg Free Academy for eight-and-a-half years. Dec. 21 will mark his last day.

“As the school resource officer I have been responsible for the security of OFA. I put on presentations for health classes, career classes. I taught DARE in the middle school for four years,” said Mr. Grady.

His duties also included investigating crimes that took place on school property, working with students who were on probation and talking with the administration regarding the school’s safety and disciplinary measures.

The position was cut as part of last year’s budget negotiations said Frederick P. Bean, president of the Ogdensburg City School Board of Education.

“Unfortunately we are in a strapped situation,” said Mr. Bean.

Ogdensburg has seen more than 50 positions cut over the last four years due to shrinking state aid, declining enrollment and increased operational costs.

Mr. Bean said the decision to cut the position is the most sensible one for the district. Mr. Grady’s salary, including benefits, was roughly $80,000.

“I think it’s been beneficial to have him there. But it all boils down to, if we kept Officer Grady, we would then have to cut another program. I have no doubt in my mind that the district is doing everything feasibly possible to keep those students safe,” said Mr. Bean, who served in the Ogdensburg Police Department for 36 years himself.

Mr. Grady said he is disappointed to see the program go.

“It’s been on the preventative side,” said Mr. Grady, adding that, while he will still be a member of the Ogdensburg Police Department, he won’t be able to be as effective at stopping crime before it happens. “We just wait for a phone call,” he said of his role at the police station.

But Mr. Grady hasn’t only been focusing on crime prevention.

“I have averaged about 15 arrests [of students] per year,” he said.

Now the school will have to rely on the Ogdensburg Police to have a quick enough response time when there is trouble at the school.

“I want the community to rest assured that the Board of Education and the administration takes the safety of our students very seriously,” said Mr. Bean, noting that all district schools have emergency plans in place and keep doors locked during the day. “I don’t believe that when you’ve got five buildings, having one police officer in one building is the best way to solve [the security] problem.”

“The taxpayers are paying good money for a police department. I’m not really sure they need to be paying for it twice,” added Mr. Bean.

Mr. Grady was originally hired as the School Resource Officer with money provided through a federal grant. That money lasted four years and now the city of Ogdensburg and the school district both pitch in to pay his salary. Mr. Grady said the school shoulders about 75 percent of the burden.

“Hopefully once I am not there the public will say, ‘This isn’t working and we really need to see about getting this back in there,’” said Mr. Grady.

Mr. Bean said he is doesn’t think the safety of the school district will be compromised by not having Mr. Grady stationed at OFA.

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