A school resource officer (SRO) will be in every Union R-XI School District building when the new year starts.
Union Police Chief Andrew Parker said his department will provide four SROs for the 2019-20 school year. It will be the first time Union will start the year with an SRO in each building.
“We are very excited about it,” Union Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold said. “We’re very pleased that the city has worked with us. The school board and the administration have allocated the money to fund that for the safety of our students and staff.”
Union Police Sgt. Anthony Cardoza will be the newest SRO. Union Police Chief Andrew Parker said Cardoza will be ready to go Thursday, Aug. 22, when school starts.
Parker said Cardoza will be assigned to Clark-Vitt Elementary.
Officer Amanda Carroll, who was assigned to Clark-Vitt last year, will move to Central Elementary. Mike Williford (Union High School) and Kevin Williams (Union Middle School) will remain at their same schools.
Outside of Union, a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy will be assigned to Beaufort Elementary.
Cardoza will be replacing Rick Neace, who had been an SRO since 2015. Neace left the SRO role in March to become the new captain/assistant chief for the department.
Neace said it was very important to him and Chief Parker to have an SRO in place before the school year started.
“It’s huge,” he said.
In his new position, Neace will able to offer guidance to the SROs.
“I have a better understanding of what they actually do,” he said. “They’re very busy, but it’s a different busy. Sometimes you’re going all day ‘call to call.’ They’re not really dispatch calls, but teachers are asking you to talk to their class or do a presentation on whatever. Different things like that pop up, so I have that knowledge of what they actually do.”
Push for SROs
Last summer the city of Union and the school district reworked their agreement in order to get an SRO in every building with the city limits. Under the new deal, compensation was changed to shift more responsibility toward the school district.
The district now pays 100 percent of the officers salary when the officer is working for the school. Previously it had been a 50/50 split.
Prior to the 2018-19 school year, Union PD provided a resource officer to Union High School, Union Middle School and Central Elementary.
Starting last school year, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department provided an SRO for Beaufort Elementary. Just like with Union police, the school district pays 100 percent of the officers salary while the deputy is working at the school.
While the agreements were approved before the school year started, Union police were unable to fill the position instantly. In order to add an SRO, the department had to add a new officer and then have that officer complete field training.
Carroll was hired and completed her training last fall. When she took over SRO as Clark-Vitt Elementary, it meant every Union R-XI school had an SRO for the first time ever.
The full roster of SROs didn’t last long. Just a few months after Carroll joined, Neace was promoted and left the schools.
Neace was promoted after three officers left the department in a span of two weeks. The exodus left the department shorthanded and meant an officer couldn’t be shifted to the SRO role immediately.
Both Parker and Neace said getting an SRO back was a top priority. This summer the department has worked on filling out its roster which left room for someone to be assigned to an SRO role.
All SROs are required to undergo special training. Parker said Cardoza will be ready to go once the school year begins.