District reports on SRO program evaluation

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Director of Equity and Student Achievement Percy Brown Jr. and Director of Bilingual Services Mandi Sersch-Morstad shared information about the District's evaluation of its school resource officer program and shared recommendations at the Board of Education regular meeting at Kromrey Middle School on Monday, April 12.

The Board is scheduled to vote on the recommendations at its April 26 meeting.

The evaluation was conducted as part of ongoing efforts to create safe and secure learning environments for students and staff, Superintendent Dana Monogue noted.

Monogue reviewed the staff, community members and others who played a role in the program evaluation. She then reviewed why the District determined a need for the evaluation, which began after national events last year.

Monogue noted the SRO program began at MHS in the 1980s and an SRO was added at Kromrey in 2002 and at Glacier Creek in 2018. The SRO's primary roles include building positive relationships, collaborating with District leaders on safety protocols, increasing awareness and education, increasing student and staff comfort and trust in reporting safety concerns, and providing classroom instruction on certain topics.

Sersch-Morstad then reviewed the themes from literature review and noted evidence is mixed on the effectiveness of SROs to make schools safer. She also reviewed the number of calls for service made to Cross Plains and Middleton police departments to the secondary schools since 2015-16 along with the citations issues and referrals and arrests made.

Brown reviewed the methodology used for the surveys and focus groups. He noted more than 1,000 parents-guardians, 300-plus staff and close to 1,400 students participated in the surveys. Three separate parent and staff focus groups were held with diverse representation among the 30 participants. A student focus group was also held on Feb. 17 and included members of two affinity groups, 11 other MHS students and five middle school students.

Monogue reviewed the recommendations being brought forward. She noted the middle schools would not have an SRO officed in their buildings daily, but that they would serve as community SROs regularly visiting the elementary and middle schools.

An SRO would remain at the high school but would dress in plain clothes. Additional training would also be required and a model oversight committee would be established and meet regularly to create a new job description, identify purposeful and meaningful activties for the SRO, design an onboarding process, identify specific training activities, and review the evaluation and supervision process for SROs.

A number of members offered their thoughts about the report. One member suggested sharing specific feedback, both good and bad, about SROs over the past five years to learn more about their impact in the District.

Also in attendance were principals Jill Gurtner (CSCS), Peg Shoemaker (MHS), Ken Metz (Glacier Creek) and Dom Ricks (Kromrey), Director of Student Services Barb Buffington, Dean of Students Brandon Tewalt (Kromrey) and Jordan Roupp (MHS), and Middleton Police Chief Troy Hellenbrand. Cross Plains Police Chief Tony Rosga attended virtually.