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Grass Valley school at risk of losing resource officer

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

One of the local high schools may lose its school resource officer if the school district and the city of Grass Valley fail to come to a funding agreement.

Park Avenue Alternative Education’s school resource officer has been funded partly by the Grass Valley Police Department and partly by the school through a Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant, but the grant expires in June.

“The whole venture was a partnership, and our intent was to maintain a partnership,” said Grass Valley Police Capt. Rex Marks. “We understand the financial situation of the schools, but we also recognize … the school did not fully fund (the position).”



The police department received increased funding with the passage of Measure N and will hire five new officers, but the top priority will be to focus on patrol and response to calls, Marks said.

“When you don’t have legal authority of a police officer, it makes it that much harder on administrators.”
— Marty Mathiesen, principal at Park Avenue Alternative Education

“The priority is on the patrol side,” he said. “The school resource officers are part of the investigative and supportive role, which is our second priority.”




The funds from Measure N will take time to be fully implemented, Marks said, and the new officers would need training before they could be stationed in the schools, a position that is usually filled by top-ranking officers.

“We know that (an SRO) is one position dedicated to one and a half sites, versus an officer who’s available to all citizens in the community,” he said. “We want to make sure we put our resources where we need them most.”

Marty Mathiesen, principal at Park Avenue Alternative Education, said the loss of a school resource officer would negatively impact the school, which has a higher number of students on probation than other schools.

“When you don’t have legal authority of a police officer, it makes it that much harder on administrators,” Mathiesen said. “When you have a police officer that is well-balanced with the kids, too, it’s even that much better … (Current school resource officer Jim Amaral) fulfills that role here in Park Avenue. He gets along with the kids so well.”

Mathiesen and Amaral just spoke last month about the changing culture and improvement of the school, which Mathiesen said he hopes is maintained even if the position is removed.

“But there is less of a safety issue when there’s a police officer on campus,” Mathiesen said.

Amaral said the loss of his position is detrimental to Grass Valley schools.

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” Amaral said. “When you take an SRO away, you take not only a detective away but a community liaison, which breaks down barriers and increases and enhances community.

“This will be the first time in 15 years that Grass Valley Police Department won’t have a school resource officer,” he said.

Trisha Dellis, assistant superintendent at the Nevada Joint Union High School District, was unaware of the situation but said she will be having conversations with the police department.

“There’s been different ways it’s been funded, but our district has always paid part of it,” Dellis said.

“We are planning on possibly paying something, but we haven’t had any conversation recently. I’m going to call them and try to find out what’s going on. We obviously feel like safety is number one, so our SROs are extremely important to our site.”

Grass Valley Mayor Dan Miller said the discussion is still up in the air.

“I briefly talked to the chief and as far as I know, we think we’re losing the funding,” Miller said. “That’s as much as I know right now.”

The school resource officers provided by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office at Bear River and Nevada Union high schools are funded exclusively through taxes, without payment by the schools, said Sheriff Keith Royal.

“We figure the high schools are very busy,” Royal said.

“They’re like little cities during the day and because of the activity we see at the school, it’s just easier to deal with those issues with a school resource officer.”

The Grass Valley Police Department is pursuing a federally funded grant that would cover the one-third portion of the SRO position that the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant covered, which makes the decision uncertain.

“We’re waiting to hear from that and we’re hopeful that we’ll have some information in late July, early August,” Marks said.

“Hopefully, we’re going to be able to restore it. We recognize the value and we think the schools do, too.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email jterman@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.


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