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STEM Academy gets first resource officer; other districts renew contracts

Deputy John Loney, the school resource officer for the Tecumseh School Destrict, provides a caring ear along with lunch for two students going through a stressful time at home. FILE PHOTO. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Deputy John Loney, the school resource officer for the Tecumseh School Destrict, provides a caring ear along with lunch for two students going through a stressful time at home. FILE PHOTO. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

The Global Impact STEM Academy in Springfield will be getting their first school resource officer this year, according to the academy’s director.

“We feel it is important based on our specific needs,” said Joshua Jennings. “In addition, this resource will assist with the training of our staff as it relates to our safety and security plans.”

The academy will be sharing a deputy with the Clark County Educational Service Center, in which they will split the cost at $26,000 for the school year, Jennings said.

Jennings said the discussion to add a SRO started last fall and the decision had nothing to do with the recent protests and social justice movement spearheaded by Black Lives Matter.

“Adding a SRO has been a discussion for a while at GISA and has everything to do with providing additional services for safety and security, especially as it relates to assisting with drop-off and dismissal and ensuring that students arrive and dismiss from school safely,” he wrote in an email. “Although we are cognizant and sensitive of the current climate that we find ourselves in, we are confident that the addition of a 1/2-time SRO will only improve aspects of our safety protocols.”

Details regarding the new SRO’s schedule are not yet set, but the academy’s hope is to have the deputy on campus daily during student drop-off and dismissal, Jennings said.

Two Clark County districts — Tecumseh and Northwestern Local School Districts — have also renewed their contracts for the coming year with the sheriff’s department for a deputy.

Tecumseh Superintendent Paula Crew said their SRO, Deputy John Loney, is embedded in the district.

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“Loney is instrumental and built so many positive relationships,” she said. “He is embedded here. He goes to each building and checks in. Helps students with issues at home, connects them with children services, he’s part of the mental health committee. There’s so much that he does.”

Crew said the district’s decision to renew a deputy also had nothing to do with the recent protests and social justice movement as Deputy Loney is “highly thought of as an arrow.”

“Loney is a member of the arrow family by not only students and staff, but also the community. I wouldn’t anticipate any issues when renewing his contract,” she said. “Having an SRO physically embedded to the environment, we can always count on the availability and reliability that they’re here when we need one.”

Northwestern Superintendent Jesse Steiner said the district sees their SRO, Deputy Darlene Grogg, as the “Director of Campus Security.”

“We rely on her to address issues when the law has been broken but she does way more than that. Her personality and relationships with our students is what makes Deputy Grogg such an outstanding and needed part of our school. She is able to reach some students that other staff members cannot. She works great with parents, students and teachers. She builds positive relationships between the school, the community and the sheriff’s department,” he said.

Just as other schools, Steiner said the recent protests and social justice movements did not play a role in their decision to renew a deputy.

READ: Tecumseh to start school day later in the fall

“If I look at that decision now with all of the events which have happened in our country, I think it is the best thing we could do for our community,” he said. “Taking Deputy Grogg out of school would mean taking out the opportunity to build relationships. Northwestern schools believes that every person has worth and deserves to be treated with respect. This is not done by removing people from the conversation. It is accomplished by hearing every voice and respecting what they have to say.”

Steiner said the district feels it’s important to have a deputy in the schools to build relationships that help keep students safe from violence.

“The best way to keep our students safe from school violence is through preventative measures. Our SRO is a huge part in building the relationships needed to prevent school violence,” he said.

The Springfield City School District contracts with the Springfield Police Division for resource officers, said Superintendent Bob Hill.

The district has four SRO’s and an additional two DARE officers, Hill said.

“SRO’s serve as a support system to our students, staff and teachers. SRO’s invest the time into our students to develop relationships and encourage good decision-making life skills. Many officers develop lifelong friendships with our students and enjoy seeing them in the community as adults,” Hill said.

Hill said the district has enjoyed the “ongoing partnership” with the Springfield Police Division since 2000 and would not have it any other way.

“The Springfield City School District finds great benefit in the SRO program and views the relationship-building component invaluable,” he said.