TALLMADGE — School Resource Officer Dave Quillen is due to get some help.
"We will be adding a second school resource officer," said Steve Wood, school district chief operating officer. "The city has been a wonderful partner."
Quillen, who has been the sole SRO for three years, was named best in state recently by the Ohio School Resource Officers Association. He currently makes rounds of all five school buildings, including David Bacon School, home of the district’s preschool program.
But the district is preparing to wrap up a large-scale construction project, building a new elementary school to replace the aging Dunbar Primary School and Munroe Elementary School, as well as a new middle school.
Wood said the two new buildings will be close to each other so the district will have two campuses, one for kindergarten through eighth grade and the other for ninth through 12th grades.
"It puts us in a great position to have one officer at each location to do the things Dave’s doing, provide the peace of mind to families as well as build relationships with kids," said Wood.
Wood said the district hopes that the new SRO will be on the job sometime before the end of the first semester of the 2019-20 school year.
"It’s in the works," said Police Chief Ron Williams. "Dave Quillen is a very dedicated, hard working guy, but he’s overextended."
Williams added that having a second SRO makes for "a more manageable work load."
"Plus you get to know people better," he said. "Dave Quillen has gotten to know people very well. He knows all the kids by name. Every time I go to an event or I’m in a school for whatever reason, he’s saying ‘hello’ and whatever that kid’s name is. He’s doing a great job and we’re hoping to expand on that."
Williams said the department is seeking candidates among its officers for the position, but the new SRO will not be on duty when the new year starts in August. This is due to a state requirement that SROs have to go through a weeklong, 40-hour training course, offered by the OSROA, and the next one scheduled after a candidate is expected to be identified is not until October.
Williams said that while the city pays for all of the costs of having Quillen in the schools, the city has a memorandum of understanding with the district in which the district will pay for the salary and benefits of the second SRO for the time he or she is in the schools, basically making the costs of the SROs "50/50."
Wood said adding another SRO is a result of voters approving a 7.4-mill operating levy.
"It’s one of the things we promised when we passed the levy in May," he said.
Williams said Quillen has chosen to concentrate his efforts in the K-8 campus, so the new SRO will be at the high school. He said having two SROs will be a benefit to both the police and the schools.
"Basically, the initial idea was to build relationships with the schools and the schools include the students, who are residents, and the parents, who are residents, and the school administration and staff," he said. "So what it does is it’s exponentially more positive contact with the good people in our community in a non-police, in a non-enforcement environment. So to us, it’s incredibly valuable."
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JeffSaunders_RP.