District, city work together to save resource officerPublished 9:26pm Monday, July 15, 2013
Dowagiac Union Schools and the City of Dowagiac are collaborating to insure the continued presence of Resource Officer Ryan Murray at the middle school and Union High.
Supt. Dr. Mark Daniel told the board of education Monday night at city hall that Dowagiac would fund the position through Dec. 31.
“We would then pick up the next five months of the resource officer — January through May,” Daniel said. “The city, then, would pick him back up for those months when we don’t have school and he’d continue working for the city. He is a city employee, a city police officer.”
Sharing the position will cost the school district $35,265 beginning Jan. 1, 2014, for the five months for salary and benefits.
Besides gauging whether school board members would “fully support” this approach, Daniel also wanted their read on three options.
One would be designating the district’s revenue from Four Winds casino. Distribution starts Oct. 1. By the second year, it could amount to $175,000.
Or, Daniel said, at-risk funding could be tapped because “there is a clause that talks about security and building safety.” Third, “a combo” of the two.
“I think it brings us all a bit of comfort … that we hope will carry forward into high school,” he said.
“Chief (Tom) Atkinson and I have sat down and talked about the role of a resource officer,” Daniel said. “He cites numerous situations we think were stymied before they became a problem. That’s a huge piece, like the rifle on school grounds at the beginning of last year.”
DMS Principal Matt Severin agreed.
“He’s built strong relationships with our students,” Severin said. “They feel comfortable with him; they talk with him. He spends a lot of time in our lunch room. He sits down, eats lunch and talks to them. They really respect him as a part of our team.”
“As Dr. Daniel said, there have been situations that we’re not going to put on the front page of the paper saying, ‘Guess what didn’t happen because Officer Murray was there?’ But we know of the significant contribution from his presence,” Severin said.
Daniel said school officials want to write a more specific description of his duties because when he started, paid out of at-risk funds, he was to focus on attendance and follow up on truancy.
“That works wonderful until the kid turns 16,” he said, explaining that is when laws for compulsory attendance end.
“At the middle school level, he plays a major role,” Severin said. “He goes out and does home visits and brings kids to school. Parents work really hard to make sure their kids are in school because they get it, but students don’t always understand the importance of that.”