With grant set to expire, Merrimack agrees to fund school resource officerBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
September 21. 2018 10:09PM
MERRIMACK — Although grant funding to pay for a school resource officer at the middle school is set to expire, fears of that position being eliminated were alleviated this week.
Officials agreed Thursday that officer Thomas Prentice will remain at the Merrimack Middle School, where he has served as a school resource officer since 2011.
Prentice’s role was initially created when the Merrimack Safeguard Group was able to secure a five-year grant for the position. The same grant had been renewed for an additional five years.
“We can’t go to the well again, unfortunately,” said school board member Andy Schneider.
The Town Council unanimously agreed that it would absorb the costs of the school resource officer’s salary, benefits and training.
Prentice’s salary, including benefits and other associated costs, is nearly $111,000 for fiscal year 2018 and about $113,600 for fiscal year 2019.
Peter Albert, town councilor, said the school resource officer positions at the middle school and high school are indispensable.
“It has been an extremely valuable tool for the community, for the school and for the police department,” Albert said of the school resource officer program. “I think they have helped bridge some gaps with the kids and the police department, and I think it has worked out really well.”
Although Prentice will continue to report to the local police chief, his primary assignment is at the middle school. Mike Murray is the district’s second school resource officer who has been stationed at the high school since 2000.
“I certainly want to commend them for the work they do on a daily basis building the relationships and the trust,” said Bill Boyd, town councilor.
Boyd said the community is lucky to have two committed law enforcement professionals that not only consider student safety a priority, but also make efforts to establish trust with students.
When Prentice was hired as a school resource officer nearly a decade ago, one of his major concerns was students who were repeatedly late or absent from school, as well as problems such as bullying, harassment, cyber-bullying and vulgar text messaging.
At the time, he described his role as a unique position that enables him to handle typical school resource officer tasks and also serve as a juvenile officer responsible for problems students may be having outside of school.
“I want to thank you for the continued collaboration this funding provides the district and the town,” Shannon Barnes, school board chairman, told town councilors this week after they agreed to fund the middle school position.