Armed at the door, but not hired as security: school resource officer monitors town meeting

Recent weeks showed a conflict between the Charlotte Selectboard and the Champlain Valley School District (CVSD) regarding a contract sent to the board earlier this year informing the town that they are responsible for footing the bill for any security the school district hires for election days and town meetings that take place in Charlotte Central School. In February, the Selectboard voted 4-1 to not sign the contract, citing concerns regarding cost, restrictions on voting, and security at the polling location; an extra armed security figure at the door was unexpected for some voters—and the Selectboard—on Tuesday at town meeting.

On Tuesday, voters and town meeting-goers, as well as students and parents, were greeted in the parking lot and at the door with security hired by the Champlain Valley School District, as well as two armed policemen, one who was expected by the town and one who was not. CVSD Director of Operations Jeanne Jensen, during discussions with the Selectboard, had said that any security hired by the district would not be armed. The school district did not, in fact, hire armed security, but a school-district-employed armed officer did monitor the door for part of the day.

Differentiating the finer point between hired security specifically for elections and other school-district-hired people who carry guns, Jensen wrote, “My comment was that the security detail we contracted with for town meeting day would not be armed. The State Troopers and Shelburne Police Department who keep our kids safe on a regular basis would be welcome guardians at any time, but if they were somehow intimidating to voters, I apologize and we will make sure they are less so in the future.”

CCS co-principal Stephanie Sumner said school resourse officer Matt Collins “did stop in mid-day. He is contracted by the district through Shelburne PD and is regularly at CCS. He checked in with me at the office upon arrival as he always does.” Collins does not wear a traditional uniform, rather a sweatshirt and workpants, along with a belt that holds a gun, flashlight, baton, and mace.

Jensen said she was unaware yet unsurprised that Collins had stopped by during the day. “Matt was instrumental in helping us plan security at Charlotte for [Town Meeting Day],” she said, “And so he probably felt a professional responsibility to support building administration and check in. I did not request his presence specifically. Again, if it was disturbing to voters, I apologize.”

Collins said he checked in at the school as part of his regular duties, but that he knew there was voting and a meeting happening that day at school. “I was aware that it was Town Meeting Day and again as part of my responsibilities as an SRO I will check in with the school, as I did yesterday. I wasn’t there for the entire day, just for a little bit, as I knew they had hired SOS Security and had the Charlotte Constable [Josh Flore] on site.”

Selectboard Chair Matt Krasnow was inside the meeting for most of the day, and said he was unaware that an extra armed officer was on the premises. “The only person I knew of who was planned to be armed is our town constable who is also a full time Shelburne police officer and was in his uniform: Josh Flore. He was at the entrance to the voting station greeting people most of the day,” he said. Flore, who lives in Charlotte, has monitored town meeting for years.