Exactly one week before school begins, four appointed city police officers are already in the classroom preparing for an intervention program unique to the area.
The School Resource Officer program is the culmination of a nearly five-year effort to obtain funding for the program.
School and police officials Tuesday introduced the four officers who will be involved. Superintendent Raymond Fashano called it a natural extension of other existing school-based police programs like "Stranger Danger" and Drug Abuse Resistance Education or DARE.
"The focus of the program is to facilitate positive interactions between police officers and students, emphasizing mentoring and role-modeling as a means of developing community interaction and cooperation," said Fashano.
All four of the officers -- James Fye, John Ferrara, Diane Stratton and James Mayer -- have resumes that include extensive community policing work and/or involvement in youth intervention programs like DARE. They were selected, according to officials, based on their prior experience and interviews.
Ferrara, who will be based at Washington Middle School, pointed out the positive impact such a program can have on police-community relations.
"(It) can enhance the relationship between police, students, and faculty," he said. "This is just another aspect of community policing . . . police-schools-community . . . a positive model."
Fye will work with students, staff and parents at the high school.
"The SRO will allow us to demonstrate our commitment to children," he said. "We will work to remove barriers that exist between our community's youth and police."
Officer Stratton has been assigned to Persell Middle School, and Mayer to Jefferson Middle School.
Police Chief William MacLaughlin said the concept has already been proven "very effective" in southern and western states.
"It uses what is traditionally known as a 'triad approach' where you're combining education, counseling, and enforcement together to work as a team in a school, whether it's a high school or a middle school," MacLaughlin said. It's a chance "to work on role-modeling, mentoring, and to assist the building principals and staff in securing the needs of that school or whatever the case may be."
In addition, the chief said, funding for an existing partnership with Washington School has been extended to June 2000, and the department has also received $111,000 to work on a problem-solving program with the high school.
Response from the community to such efforts, according to MacLaughlin, has been positive.
"I've been to a number of neighborhood watch groups and have talked about this in some of our meetings on National Night Out that we had recently," he said. "We talked with a number of the groups, and they were very supportive of this. They thought it was an excellent idea."
Fashano said the School Resource Officer program was funded through a federal grant awarded to the Jamestown Police Department.