This spring, the Medford School District’s elementary schools will begin receiving an additional layer of security by instituting a team of retired law enforcement officers.
The School Marshal Program will be a partnership between the school district and the Medford Police Department, which already provides school resource officers — who are policemen and women — to protect the district’s secondary schools.
“You can’t have teaching and learning without a foundation of safety and security,” Medford School District Superintendent Bret Champion said during a news conference Friday announcing the partnership.
Medford police Chief Justin Ivens, who noted both he and his children attended Medford schools, said the district approached his department with the idea to institute school marshals.
“It was amazing,” Ivens said. “I just want to say thank you to the district for giving us this opportunity, and we’re truly excited to be a part of it.”
Ivens said the School Marshal Program is a testament to the existing SROs program, which has been in existence since 1994. The department supplies the school district with four SROs, and an additional one will be posted coming next fall, when Oakdale Middle School opens.
“While the SROs do have coverage at the elementary schools, they are consumed at the secondary level and spend a lot of time there,” said Ron Havniear, the school district’s director of safety and security. “There’s no negative to getting better coverage out of our elementary schools and having those marshals dedicated to that.”
Havniear believes the school marshals, being plain-clothed, will be “less assuming” in an elementary school environment than the uniformed SROs.
“They’re there, but they can’t be seen, and they’re not there at all hours like our SROs,” Havniear said.
Ivens noted that the school marshals will be experienced in law enforcement and know how to communicate and resolve situations.
The marshals will be armed, the school district said.
“They will be a good presence at those schools,” the Medford police chief said.
“We plan to have three marshals this spring who will rotate schools, and increase the number each year, with the goal of covering each elementary school,” the district said in a news release. The district has 14 elementary schools.
“We hope to have that one-to-one coverage in the coming year,” Havniear said. “Even when we’re full, they’ll have a home school, but they will rotate schools and hours on a daily basis to have a fresh site and mix things up.”
School marshals will be paid employees of the Medford Police Department. The city’s website lists the position as part-time (less than 25 hours per week) and it pays $38.53 an hour. Benefits include paid sick leave, Oregon PERS retirement contributions, wellness incentives and access to a fitness center.
“Some of the officers we’ve talked with are actually very excited about this program,” Champion said. “They’re high quality, highly trained individuals who are ready to do something a little bit different as they near retirement.”
In using retired officers, Ivens said, the police department won’t have to choose between posting them at a school or in a patrol car.
“This is just a win-win,” Ivens said.
School marshals have been used in the Grants Pass School District, which was one factor that inspired the Medford School District to approach the police department about the program.
“One thing we’ve learned these last few years is safety and security is not a competitor to teaching and learning — it is an enabler to it,” Havniear said.
Kevin Opsahl is the cops and courts reporter for Rogue Valley Times. He was previously the education reporter for Medford Mail Tribune. Kevin graduated from Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington in 2010. He has spent his adult life in the west, but was born and raised in Maryland.
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