Posted 12/02/14 (Tue)
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
This will be the first time in history that McKenzie County Public School District #1 will have a full-time School Resource Officer located within the schools. The biggest benefit to this position will be the addition of a mentor/liaison to the kids and teachers.
The idea came about from a proposal written by Watford City Police Chief Art Walgren. Once the proposal was written, there was a great deal of positive feedback, which ultimately won approval. The position will be funded as of Jan. 1, 2015.
“Optimistically, we are hoping to have someone in place sometime between January and March,” said Steve Holen, McKenzie County Public School District #1 superintendent. “We at least want to know who the person is by that time, and hopefully that person will be able to start some of the duties. Once this position is filled, this could be the front-line person to help.”
It’s Walgren’s hope that the position will at least be filled half-time until the process is complete with a full-time School Resource Officer in place.
“It’s a little more complicated of a process than it seems, said Walgren. “Patrol officer positions need to be filled in addition to this new position, and then the specific School Resource Officer will have to go through an extensive training period, all of which takes time.”
But the outlook is good and all parties seem to be very optimistic.
This new position will also be funded differently. Half funding will come through the police department and the other half will come from the school district. Because the police department will hold the contract, they will ultimately come up with the full job description and duties.
“This is a joint effort with the police department and the school district,” said Holen. “I think it will be a job description that will probably evolve after the first few months. And hopefully, the school will grow into this from the educational realm in getting back to the basics - to ultimately having a positive presence in the schools. Hopefully, we’ll have the ability to mold this position into something that fits us the best.”
This position will most likely be located with a permanent office in the high school, but will visit every school on a weekly basis.
“We hope to have this person’s office in the high school,” said Holen. “We are still working on a ‘home base’ for this position.
There will also be flexibility when it comes to the schedule and hours of this new position. Adjustments will be made to the schedule so that this new officer may be present at different after school and sporting events, and may have follow-up hours on different cases or issues that arise, in addition to having hours working within the schools with the students during the day.
According to Holen and Walgren, the duties of the new position will vary from the high school and the elementary school.
It’s the hope that within the high school, the officer will not only be a huge help to the principals, but will have a positive presence in the building, will get to know the kids on a more personal level, and increase positive communication. The officer could also have the ability to be very active in promoting different topics and programs, such as safety and drug-free awareness.
“I don’t want this position to be intimidating to these kids,” said Holen, “but viewed as someone these students can go to and trust. I see this position being able to help with K9 searches, educating before dances, and bringing resources that we maybe didn’t have before.”
In the elementary school, the officer would play a large role in the educational piece and would hopefully, be able to bring back some programs that haven’t been able to happen in a few years.
“I really envision that person getting to know the kids,” said Holen. “And building relationships with guidance counselors and other school staff. I’d like to see this person bring back programs that could really benefit these kids. I also see this position really helping with general traffic issues at the elementary school.”
According to Walgren, there are three ultimate goals for this position. First, he hopes that this new position will improve the overall relationships with the kids in the community. Secondly, he hopes this position will provide more options in dealing with delinquent behavior. And lastly, he hopes that this position will provide a liaison within the school in dealing with anything that may come up.
“We want this new position to be viewed positively within the community,” said Holen. “It shouldn’t be alarming. It’s not because we have a lot of issues at our schools. We just think it will be very beneficial, a great opportunity. It’s not new. It’s something we’ve been hoping to have here for years. Our principals are really excited about having that assistance right there, when needed.”