Clarendon Hills continues move to eliminate DARE program
Biljana Rivera (seated), a parent with four children attending schools in Clarendon Hills, speaks out against getting rid of the Police Departments' DARE program. | Chuck Fieldman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 10, 2012 1:04PM
CLARENDON HILLS — Despite concerns expressed by a handful of parents raised at Monday’s Village Board meeting, Clarendon Hills and Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 continue to work on a plan to eliminate the Police Department’s DARE program.
The driving force behind the move is money.
“We cannot afford to have a full-time officer in the schools anymore,” Police Chief Ted Jenkins said, adding that has been the case for about the past 10 years.
The program costs the village about $140,000 annually for the officer’s salary and benefits. The DARE officer spent 61 percent of his time in the schools in 2011, which accounted for $85,400 of the expense.
Jenkins said longtime DARE officer Rick Talerico did sometimes help with other duties, but never was regularly scheduled to be on the street as a patrol officer.
“We were doing this at a time when we had 15 officers; now we have 13, so it’s difficult for us to not be able to schedule an officer for anything except DARE,” Jenkins said.
Representatives of the village, Police Department and District 181 have been studying ways to reduce redundancies between the DARE program and District 181’s Social Emotional Learning for Academic Success program. That program has been in place since the 2004-2005 school year and fulfills a state requirement to incorporate social and emotional learning into curriculum and assess children’s progress in acquiring those skills.
Prospect and Walker elementary schools are the three District 181 schools located in Clarendon Hills. All have been involved with the DARE program.
Some parents questioned the reduction of classroom time by a police officer to 40 hours a year from 431 total hours in 2011.
“We don’t really know, yet, how many hours it will be, and that is something we will talk more about as District 181 comes up with a curriculum,” Village President Tom Karaba said.
Biljana Rivera, who has four children attending District 181 schools, spoke in favor of continuing the program.
“I’m not going to give up one hour,” she said. “This is saving lives on an everyday basis. This DARE program is amazing.”
“I am concerned about how we are going to incorporate the drug awareness program into SELAS,” said Kelly McMahon, who has three children in District 181 schools.
Kevin Russell, who just began work as a District 181 administrator after being the Walker School principal since 2008, said regular interaction will continue between District 181 and police if the program is eliminated and the SELAS program is expanded to include many of DARE’s components.
Village Manager Randy Recklaus said a final decision is planned within the next few weeks.
“The school district is continuing to work on a curriculum, and a decision will be made when that’s done,” he said. “This would be a pilot program, and we’d take a look at it probably in December and in June to see how it’s working.”