Duluth Public Schools Superintendent John Magas will be asking for a resolution of support for school resource officers if a new contract is not drafted in time for the regular Duluth School Board meeting Tuesday, July 21.
The contract was not on the business committee agenda Tuesday, July 14, so if one was drafted before the meeting July 21 it would be added as a special resolution. Typically, contracts would go through the business committee before being voted on at the monthly regular School Board meeting.
“My preference is the board moves forward in support of school resource officers,” Magas said, “and that we take this next school year to examine our structures for possible racial bias and continue to move away from structures that promote disproportionate discipline, or negative consequences, for particular student groups.”
Duluth Public Schools CFO Cathy Erickson said there had been conversations early on with the city regarding the contract to add language if instruction is through distance learning or the hybrid model in the 2020-21 school year. After COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, school buildings closed almost immediately and students went to distance learning. This meant there were no school resource officers in the schools for 10 weeks.
Erickson said due to uncertainty with the 2020-21 school year, the district wanted to put in language to address the issues if the district was distance learning or in a hybrid model.
Magas said the city is willing to give the district an $80,000 credit for the 10 weeks school resource officers were not in the schools to put toward the next contract.
Multiple petitions have been created in the Duluth community to remove school resource officers from the schools completely. In response, the School Board invited the Duluth Police Department to a committee of the whole meeting last week to give a presentation about what school resource officers do. The police department was joined by the secondary school principals for the presentation.
The previous contract, which expired June 30, cost the district about $251,000 a year for four school resource officers, one for each high school and middle school. Erickson said the district did budget for the contract in the 2020-21 school year. School resource officers are police department employees.
Magas said he hopes to have a contract ready in time for the regular School Board meeting, but if it isn’t he will be asking the board to approve a resolution of support for school resource officers.
"Given the uncertainties of the fall, I'm hopeful that the board will make the decision to support our school resource officers," Magas said. "We must continue this meeting dialogue and also examine our policies and procedures for school interaction with law enforcement. It's too important an issue to decide upon without this."
This story was updated at 11:44 p.m. July 14 with information and quotes from Superintendent John Magas. It was originally posted at 8:34 p.m. July 14.