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School district will terminate agreement for police officers in two buildings

The Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District Board of Education will not renew an agreement through which the Manalapan Police Department places an armed Class III special law enforcement officer in the Pine Brook School and in the Manalapan Englishtown Middle School (MEMS) each day school is in session.

The agreement is in place for the 2018-19 school year and cost the district about $37,000, but it will not be renewed for the 2019-20 school year, according to a decision board members made during a meeting on March 12.

That evening, board members directed Superintendent of Schools John J. Marciante Jr. to notify Tara Lovrich, who is the township administrator in Manalapan, that the school district would not continue the agreement.

Board members said they were informed Manalapan will be raising the salary paid to the Class III officers – who are recently retired police officers employed by the Manalapan Police Department – by $10 per hour because of the demand for these officers in schools throughout New Jersey.

The additional cost to the school district would be about $22,000 for the upcoming school year, according to board members. The Class III officers are being paid $20 per hour during the 2018-19 school year.

In the face of a continuing reduction in the school district’s state aid, board members said they could not pay the higher salary for the Class III officers and would instead rely on armed security officers who are employees of the school district to work at Pine Brook and MEMS. The district’s security officers are retired police officers and currently work in the elementary schools.

In a March 15 letter to Lovrich, Marciante wrote, “As you are well aware, the school district has suffered major cuts in state aid and will continue to need to address additional reductions in state aid in the coming years.

“In preparation of the 2019-20 school year, I inquired about the expected cost to the district for the Class III officers. You indicated the hourly cost of the Class III officers was going to be reviewed by the Township Committee after it was recommended by Police Chief (Michael) Fountain that it be raised $10 per hour.

“While I recognized this raise was reflective of the rate of pay in the state due to the shortage of the (Class III) officers, the over $20,000 difference in cost to the district as opposed to the cost of district security officers is significant.

“I have been directed by the board to inform you the district will not be renewing the memorandum for the employment of Class III officers for the 2019-20 academic year. I want you to know I appreciate the township’s support this past year as we successfully addressed the security concerns of the community,” Marciante wrote.

The Pine Brook School educates all sixth-graders in the school district and MEMS educates all seventh- and eighth-graders in the district.

Last year when the agreement with Manalapan was reached regarding Class III officers, Marciante said, “For the immediate future the board has decided to go with a two-pronged approach to security. Overall it was felt that due to the age of the students at the secondary level it was more appropriate to have the Class III officers in Pine Brook and MEMS.

“The security in the remaining six buildings will also be retired law enforcement officers, but they will be school district employees. At this time this is felt to be more cost-effective considering the significant budget challenges the district will face over the next seven years. The overall security initiative will be evaluated at the end of the year and at that time the board will re-evaluate its decision,” Marciante said.

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