MASSENA - A member of the village of Massenas Police Department who formerly served as a school resource officer for the Massena Central School District says his in-school experience would be a benefit if hes elected to the districts board of education this month.
Patrick Sergusons stint as school resource officer ended in 2007 when former Mayor Randy G. DeLosh eliminated funding for the position, and district officials did not offer to pick up the entire cost of having Mr. Serguson in the schools.
He had been a full-time presence in the school district since September 2003 when the district and village agreed to share the costs for the SRO position. Prior to that, he had served as DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer in the district.
When I was there I had an open dialogue with administrators, faculty and staff. I worked on a number of committees and did DARE for a lot of years, Mr. Serguson said. I talked to everybody. I got to know people throughout the district. I learned their jobs, I talked to them. I always had a good rapport with most of the employees. I heard their concerns. I know what works and what doesnt work.
In addition, he joined Patrick Henrie in coaching the boys varsity soccer team and coached the girls junior varsity softball team.
Mr. Serguson, 49, said that while he had been involved in volunteer work in the past, he didnt originally see himself running for a board of education seat, but decided to throw his hat into the ring this year.
I think my reasons have been a combination. For the last few years Ive seen things and heard things. Being in law enforcement you hear a lot of stuff, but you try not to judge. It got to the point where I started going to school board meetings and started witnessing things. I think there needs to be some change. Thats the biggest reason Ive thrown my hat in, he said.
Mr. Serguson said he has talked with school personnel, students and members of the community over the past few months.
As a result of those conversations, I think that the next school board budget vote more than ever is going to be community vote, not just a school board vote, he said.
While talking with school personnel, he said they have overwhelmingly expressed displeasure in their work environment.
Students have also shared their concerns with him, he said.
The students I talked to told me school is not fun anymore. They said its been that way for the last three years, he said.
Mr. Serguson said he has also talked with community members.
Ive been shocked to hear some of the community members who are extremely dissatisfied with the way the district is being run. Some have been very vocal. One person who is affiliated with the local hospital said they had difficulty recruiting because of he negativity surrounding the school, he said.
There is also the possibility of losing educators because of the situation, he suggested.
Its a huge concern of others - the potential loss of qualified, dedicated educators in the district. I truly believe we cant afford to lose any more quality teachers in the district, Mr. Serguson said.
A veteran of 22 years in the Massena Police Department, Mr. Serguson said he wants to focus on whats best for the children and the community.
My focus is going to be on the children in the school and the community as one. I think we need to restore Massenas reputation as one of the top educational institutions in the north country. The board has to come together as a whole and work together as a cohesive group, he said.
Mr. Serguson, whose wife works as a counselor at Jefferson Elementary School, said he would be open to hear any concerns from the public.
The community is going to be able to reach out, and Im going to listen to their concerns. Right now I dont think the board appears to be community friendly at this point. I think we have to work together at this point, he said.
Those concerns include keeping taxes down.
We have an older base here in Massena. I understand why its important to keep taxes down. I think its imperative that the school board be fiscally responsible, Mr. Serguson said.
Im also very concerned with the loss of Ms. Yager, he said, referring to Assistant Superintendent for Business Cynthia M. Yager who will be retiring at the end of August. She keeps the finances in shape. I really worry about whats coming around the corner.