Shawano School District wants more officers in schools

Officials plan on adding 2nd to staff
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

The Shawano School District is looking at bolstering its relationship with the Shawano Police Department, even as other Wisconsin school districts are taking action to cut ties with the police.

Superintendent Randi Anderson told the district’s finance committee on July 15 that there has been discussion of having a second school resource officer in the halls of its schools. She noted that it has been a discussion she has been having with Shawano Police Chief Dan Mauel since she was hired by the district a year ago.

“How can we better support our community, our families, our students?” Anderson said. “The goal of that person is to build the relationship with the community and strengthen the relationships with the police.”

If the district decides to employ two school resource officers, the school district would be looking at bearing 70% of the costs associated with those officers, while the city of Shawano would pick up the tab for the other 30%. Currently, the costs are split 50-50 between the two entities, even though the officer usually works nine months in the schools and the other three months for the city.

Anderson pointed out that the current officer is dealing with a number of calls between the four schools, and enforcing law isn’t supposed to be the entire job description. She noted that school resource officers’ primary role is to interact with students and staff and try to show that the police do more than just arrest criminals.

If the plan moves forward, one officer would serve at Hillcrest Primary School and Olga Brener Intermediate School, while the other would handle Shawano Community Middle School and Shawano Community High School. Anderson said the officer at the elementary schools would likely not be a uniformed officer.

“They would have a presence in the community at all of our events, and so we would see that connection,” Anderson said. “It’s important to say that they’re here to serve us. They’re here to support us.”

The school resource officer was very busy answering calls with the elementary schools last year — prior to the pandemic closing the schools — and so working with the older grades was being neglected, according to Anderson.

“I want our community to understand the services that are provided,” she said. “Part of this is education from our SRO to our community, so part of the scope that Dan and I have talked about is there would be classes for students to attend, parents to attend, and just understanding that whole system.

“It’s not catching our kids being naughty and dealing with that as it is building the relationship, so there has to be a little shift.”

School board member Bruce Milavitz said he has been thinking the schools need additional officers for at least a year or two. He noted it’s hard for the current officer to be based at SCHS but spend most of the time at the other schools.

“I hope you can look at that budget and find a way to fit it in,” Milavitz said. “I see how the kids always treat her. They’re always smiling and they want to talk to the school resource officer. I think it’s a great team-building, community-building spend for the district.”

Business Manager Nick Curran noted the district could utilize its community education fund to pay for the two officers. He said he did something similar when he worked for a school district in Omro.

“When we first had school resource officers, they were primarily for protection,” Curran said. “While they still serve that purpose, there’s so much more now to a school resource officer.”

School board member Diane Hoffman agreed, noting that the job description should be examined thoroughly to reflect the officer’s role in the schools.

“I feel there are a lot of calls to them that shouldn’t be calls to the SRO,” Hoffman said. “They’re not there to be a disciplinarian.”