UL hires resource officer coordinator

T-L Photo/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Mike Menges, left, safety director for the Union Local School District, talks with Jason Greenwood, the district’s newly hired resource officer coordinator. Greenwood will assist in interviewing new resource officers for next school year.

By ROBERT A. DEFRANK

Times Leader Staff Writer

MORRISTOWN — The Union Local School District intends to again staff its buildings with resource officers when the new school year rolls around in August, despite recent officer resignations.

During a May 3 special meeting, the board of education voted to terminate its contract that stipulated the Bethesda Police Department would provide resource officers for the schools. The board also hired Jason Greenwood, a retired Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper and past school resource officer, to serve as the district’s safety officer coordinator at an annual salary of $40,000. Greenwood has a yearly contract of about 195 days.

Superintendent Ben Porter said the contract termination will take effect in June, 30 days from the decision. During the summer months, the district will address the need to obtain resource officers. Two of the current resource officers have resigned from the Bethesda Police Department, following in the footsteps of other officers, council members and the village solicitor who resigned following the April suspension of Police Chief Eric Smith. He is now under investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for allegedly misusing a police database.

“As of May 3, we hired Jason Greenwood as a resource officer of course, but also we’re going utilize him as someone who directs our safety program in the district,” said Porter. “Over the next month, we are going to be exploring all options that we have in terms of security and school resource officer possibilities for the next school year. We have been in discussion with Bethesda again about the possibility of implementing a new contract, but we’re in the very early stages of that.”

Porter said the security services provided by Bethesda had been satisfactory during the past two years of the contract, including the past two months.

“The school has, and will continue to, stay out of the affairs that are going on in Bethesda,” Porter said. “As a district, those affairs don’t involve us. We contracted with Bethesda for the resource officers, and hopefully that’s a partnership we can re-establish over the summer.

“Our goal is each day to have three (resource officers), one in each building,” he said. “We’re looking at at least two people for the district, the possibility of three officers is still there, but that number’s up in the air at this time.”

Meanwhile, Greenwood’s duties will include participating in training exercises, evaluating the district security, interviewing prospective resource officers and assisting Safety Director Mike Menges. Porter said their responsibilities would initially overlap, with Greenwood possibly taking a lead on the safety role over time.

“In terms of law enforcement, Mr. Greenwood has a lot of great experience,” Porter said. “In terms of policies and requirements of the district, Mr. Menges at this point in time has more familiarity.”

Porter said the school will maintain the welfare of the students as its primary goal. He pointed to the school shooting incidents in recent weeks that have rocked the country.

“School safety has become our top priority, to keep our kids safe when we come here,” Porter said. “We are in the process of completing a major evaluation of safety, and that is going to be a huge piece of what Mr. Greenwood’s going to do — evaluating all areas, our entrances … camera systems … you name it, we’re going to look at it. … With the things that are going on in this country and the world, it’s something that we very much value and will continue to look at hard.”

Greenwood had worked as a Union Local school resource officer through the village of Bethesda during the 2016-17 school year.

“When he was here, we were highly impressed with his skills and ability, his interactions with students and the daily effort we saw that he put into keeping our kids and our staff safe,” Porter said. “We really need somebody that’s going to assist in that, with our safety plan for the district, with our safety drills and those types of things.”

According to documentation from the May 3 meeting, Greenwood was authorized by the board to carry a weapon within the bounds of the district. Greenwood said it has not been decided if he will need to be armed in the course of his duties. Porter said the district has spoken with legal counsel and there is no concern about liability.

Greenwood served with the Ohio State Highway Patrol for close to 26 years before retiring. As an employee of the district, Greenwood will not be in uniform. He said he looks forward to the next school year.

“With the climate in the world today, it’s always a work in progress. There are always improvements to be made,” Greenwood said, adding that he has begun settling back into the district’s operations. “Most of the students knew me from when I was here before as a resource officer with Bethesda. I stepped in the role like I never left. They recognized me and knew who I was.”

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