Tahlequah Public Schools, along with the Tahlequah Police Department, set the stage many years ago for a unique partnership that provides School Resource Officers to work in our schools.
These officers are responsible for safety in schools. Over the years, the partnership has grown to the point where each school now has an officer working daily in the school building.
SRO team members are Marcus Sams, with 20 years of service at Central Academy; Brian Stanglin, with 14 years of service at Tahlequah Middle School; Randy Jordan, with 13 years of service and presently at Greenwood Elementary; Randy Tanner, with seven years of service and presently at Cherokee Elementary; Pam Bell, with five years of service at Heritage Elementary; Reed Felts, with four years of service at Tahlequah High School; and Cody Warren, with three years of service at Sequoyah Pre-K.
What do SROs do in schools? They are the liaison between the school and the police department. They work with administration and staff to actively pursue the safest environment within our schools and to help promote a positive school climate.
Most importantly, SROs foster and build relationships among educators, students, and police officers. By breaking down barriers and building relationships, SROs open the door for students to trust and to tell someone if they see a potential problem occurring or brewing.
Resource officers conduct safety drills on the TPS campuses such as lockdowns, intruder drills, fire drills, tornado drills, etc. They teach ALICE training as well as DARE classes. Every student knows their SROs and respects them.
SROs work with campus administrators to deter criminal activity on TPS campuses and to enforce the law.
They work at home sporting events, band concerts, choir concerts, prom, graduation, and the Save-a-Senior all-night celebration to ensure safe gatherings. They also work with campus administrators to help monitor truancy for the site, accompany site personnel on home visits when needed, and assist with daily routines such as car lines, bus lines, and walk-ups.
SROs help with some behind-the-scenes activities, such as distributing goods within the district's backpack program. They also facilitate and manage camping events for kids who may not have the opportunity to go otherwise.
We are very thankful to have an SRO assigned to every school site within our school district and appreciate all that they do to make our schools safe.
Leon Ashlock is superintendent of the Tahlequah I-35 School District.