A joint effort between Otsego Public Schools and the City of Otsego is resulting in an extra layer of security for our students, staff and buildings - a School Resource Officer (SRO.) The City Commission approved the agreement Tuesday night and the Otsego Board of Education is set to approve it at its next meeting, September 12th.
“We are looking forward to having a School Resource Officer on our campus and the positive relationships this individual will build with our students, staff, and families,” says Jeff Haase, Otsego Public Schools Superintendent.
This year’s School Aid Budget provided additional funding for school districts in Michigan for school safety and infrastructure. That funding will cover this addition (estimated at $60,000/year.) Otsego’s SRO will be a sworn officer with the Otsego Police Department; Judd Sikkema has been chosen as the officer and recently went through additional training to work in schools. OPS will reimburse the police department for the days and hours this officer works in the schools or attends school-sponsored events. The SRO will serve mostly the main campus - high school, middle school and Washington Street Elementary - but will also be available for Dix Street and Alamo Elementary. This is a 3-year agreement, but both Otsego schools and the city hope this is just the beginning of a long-term partnership.
The role of a School Resource Officer is multi-faceted. As a sworn officer, he will promote safety in and around the school by addressing crime and serve as a liaison between the school and outside agencies. “We are also looking at this officer to be an educator and counselor to share topics related to law enforcement with our students, geared toward promoting positive student behavior, and to build positive relationships with our students, reinforcing positive behaviors and connecting youth with needed services,” Haase adds. The SRO will also be a key part of our district safety team and assist with the development of comprehensive safety plans or strategies, in coordination with school administration or local first responders.
“Our #1 goal at OPS is providing a safe and secure environment for our students to learn and thrive. Our Board of Education has taken this very seriously,” Haase says. Adding a School Resource Officer adds an additional layer of security to what we’ve installed over the last few years. We have added secure entrances to each of our buildings so visitors have to be allowed in; we have upgraded our security system by adding security cameras; each of our classrooms and offices have Nightlock Devices in them. “We have also added more counselors and social workers to our buildings to address social-emotional and mental health needs.
“We need to remember that our best security device is the positive relationships we build with students and families. When those positive relationships exist, then communication concerning potential threats hopefully can be avoided and resolved. This will add another layer of that effort to our schools,” Haase says. Officer Sikkema will begin at OPS September 12th.