By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
A change in the School Resource Officer program for Effingham schools is in the works.
On Monday, Unit 40 School District Superintendent Mark Doan told school board members that the Sheriff’s Department has indicated its intentions to stop providing a school officer in lieu of Effingham City Police Department taking over that role. Doan said this could raise the cost to the school district and end a longtime successful partnership to make schools safe in Effingham.
Sheriff Dave Mahon explained the county deputy SRO will remain in place for the remainder of the current school year. If approved by all parties, the transition from county to city coverage will be completed for the start of the next school year in August.
Mahon said his department will maintain SRO coverage in schools at Dieterich, Teutopolis, Beecher City and Altamont, but the Effingham school officer will be added to patrol duty.
“We’re not bailing out. We’re doing a transition. We can bring in the resources of the City of Effingham to the Effingham schools. And there will be cooperation between both departments when it is needed. I look at this as a plus for our community,” Mahon said.
Effingham Police Chief Jeff Fuesting said he had expressed interest in the change because Effingham school buildings are in the jurisdiction of his department. Having a city SRO in city schools would also help with fighting crime in the community and engaging the department with young people even more.
“This would offer our patrol officers with a direct line of community with the Effingham SRO. That can increase intelligence information to our department and also build more ties with kids in the city limits,” said Fuesting, who had command experience in St. Louis County by managing up to 15 SROs in four separate school districts.
Doan said it has been noted that up to 40 percent of Effingham school students live outside city limits. That was one of the benefits of having a countywide reach for the program, which dates back about 20 years.
“We’ve had great success with SRO through the county. So there is no option to drop this,” said Doan, who has been discussing the change with Chief Fuesting after the Sheriff revealed the county’s plans. “There are probably more costs if we change it.”
Fuesting said this is not a final deal at this point so he cannot discuss specific costs to the school district with the change.
“No document has been signed. Costs not set yet. But it really looks like this is where we’re going,” Fuesting said.
Mahon said the savings from the change could put another patrolman on the road for his department.
“We can have me one more guy out on the street. And that means we might make more arrests that could help the schools, too,” Mahon explained. “And we’ll have good cooperation between both departments for incidents at any schools in the county. We’ll be helping each other.”