By Sue Moore
School Resource Officer (SRO) is the title given a Vicksburg police officer who works within the schools to make sure the students are safe and secure. Officer Henry Kite told the Vicksburg school board at its August meeting that he will be taking this job over from Officer Mark Peterson, who has held it for the last two years.
Kite plans to expand activities to include what is called the “Fast $50 Program”. He explained that students can report any illegal activity that occurs within their school and receive $50-$100 if the tip is substantiated. It is completely anonymous and remains confidential between the student and the SRO, he said. These activities can range from drugs, weapons, vandalism to stolen property. It’s been very successful in Portage, Kite said.
A cell phone registration program Kite is planning will allow students to register their phone or other electronic equipment with him to prevent the theft of the device or to trace it if theft occurs. Kite has an office at the high school but will be active at each building in the school district.
Peterson had the last year’s statistics prepared for Kite to deliver to the school board in his presentation. He made 48 traffic stops, issued 14 citations, 34 verbal warnings, handled four criminal complaints of a misdemeanor nature, one felony complaint, counseled 18 students, and made 35 class presentations.
Trustee Rudy Callen pointed out that the statistics are helpful but he would like to see positive statistics too, not just who got in trouble. “The goal is to improve relationships,” he said. Kite hopes to accomplish this by spending more time at the elementary buildings, especially Tobey and Indian Lake. Already the police are attending many school functions such as football, basketball, and volleyball games at the high school. They have helped form an anti-bullying program at the middle school and high school, and a computer and social media safety program has been instituted.
Three years ago, when the village was experiencing a deficit budget, it was determined to discontinue the resource officer as there were not enough funds to keep it going. Parents protested, the Vicksburg Foundation stepped in with next year funding. After that the cost was divided equally among the school system and the Foundation. This year the Foundation will contribute 34.8%, the school 34.8% and the Village 30.5%. Next year, the village is set to fully fund the position.
Kite has an interesting background since coming to the Vicksburg and Schoolcraft departments in 2008, and should relate well to students of all ages, Chief Eric West said. Prior to working in law enforcement, he ran the refinish department at a collision repair facility and was also a licensed contractor. He and his wife Heather live in the school district and have two children attending Vicksburg.