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Published: Wednesday, 10/18/2006

Officer's presence in schools at risk

Officer Bill Schultz talks with John C. Roberts Middle School sixth graders. Officer Bill Schultz talks with John C. Roberts Middle School sixth graders.

The school resource officer program in the Genoa Area Local School District may be in jeopardy if district officials can't find funding to continue paying for it.

Clay Township police Officer Bill Schutz has been a familiar face in the district's high school and middle school for four years.

He has worked in the schools 180 days a year. The rest of the time, while the students are on Christmas or summer break, for example, he's out on the roads working for the township.

But the federal COPS in Schools grant that paid for his salary and benefits for three full years ran out last year, Genoa Superintendent Dennis Mock said.

A condition to the grant was that the officer's salary would have to be paid for through other means during the fourth year. Twenty percent of the funding for his fourth year came from the township out of the levy that funds the police department.

The rest came from the district through a grant geared toward keeping students off drugs. The district was able to put money from that grant aside for three years to have enough to fund the fourth year.

But district officials don't know if they'll have money to continue paying his salary after Dec. 31.

With his wages and benefits, Officer Schutz is paid $47,723 annually.

If the district wanted him to work in the schools only during the school year, it would have to come up with $33,033 to pay his wages and benefits.

Whether to retain the program or not is expected to be a topic at the school board's monthly meetings through the end of the year.

"We have our October, November, and December board meetings to discuss the process that we can use to maintain it," Mr. Mock said. "The question is, 'What are we going to do?'•"

He said that the school administration plans to ask surrounding communities, including the village of Genoa and Allen Township, if they would be willing to help fund the program.

If the school district decides to keep the program for the school year, the trustees of Clay Township said that they would be willing to kick in 10 percent of the district's costs.

The money would come from the levy that funds the police department.

If the program does continue, Mr. Mock said an important component would be that the officer would also cover the district's two elementary school buildings.

The federal grant allowed him to work only in the high school and middle school.

Officer Schutz is responsible for teaching the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program to sixth graders, discussing the dangers of drinking and driving, supervising the hallways of the school, assisting building principals with daily issues, and handling any incidents that occur.

"Hopefully they're feeling safer with the presence," Officer Schutz said.

Clay Township Police Chief Roger Schultze said that having a police officer in the schools is valuable to both the district and the police department.

"It's nice to have an officer in the school," the Chief Schultze said.

"If he wasn't there," Chief Schultze said, "it would take officers off the road quite a bit. We would like to see the program continue. We just need to work together and see that it happens."

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