Less than two months ago, Washington Community Schools Assistant Superintendent Paul White was working to write a grant that would potentially give the school corporation the opportunity to hire a school resource officer.
“The whole process has moved pretty quickly,” said White.
Mayor Joe Wellman said the idea of a school resource officer was something he and school officials had thought about and looked into several months. “Then this grant came along. We’ve always had a working relationship with the schools but this will strengthen that.”
A few weeks ago, the corporation received word that they would be awarded one of the $50,000 grants and the search for a school resource officer began.
Johnny Lagle, a 16-year veteran of the Washington Police Department, was hired earlier this week to fill the position. Lagle will primarily be at the high school and junior high but will also make appearances at the elementary schools.
“This program is really a long time coming,” said Lagle. “I think it’s really going to help build a better relationship between the students and the police department and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Superintendent Dr. Dan Roach said that he feels this is a great opportunity for everyone involved. “The relationship component is a major part of making this program successful. We want to help build a bridge in the community between the students and law enforcement,” said Roach.
Lagle will spend his days interacting with and getting to know the students and he hopes by next fall there will be a curriculum in place that he will be teaching to students. The curriculum will most likely include anti-bullying awareness, leadership, drug awareness, goal setting and other topics that would impact students.
Police Chief Mike Healy said he feels having Lagle in the schools each day with the students is a big positive.
“They’ll see the same person there each day and they will begin to build a relationship with him. We want the kids to know who Johnny is and trust him,” said Healy.
The grant money will be used in conjunction with city funds to pay Lagle.
“When he isn’t at the school, Johnny will work for the city,” said Healy. “And if we need him because something has happened in town, we can pull him from there to help.”
Wellman said he is excited for the new opportunity for the school and city.
“This is really a win-win situation for the school and the community. This will not only improve safety for our teachers and students but also the community. As Johnny builds relationships with the kids, we can get a better feel for what’s going on in the schools,” said Wellman.
Currently the grant is for one year which means that if it is not renewed, Lagle’s daily presence in the schools would end next December.
“We are hoping that the program will continue and the state will see the importance of the program,” said Roach.
For now Lagle is just looking forward to getting started.
“I think it’s really important to get involved with these kids. Basically, you go from generation to generation and some of the adults I work with now, I’ve watched grow up and they had no one to go to. We have to get involved with the kids.”