Police Chief, Sheriff Discuss SRO Program w/Unit 40 School Board


Published on March 7 2018 8:28 pm
Last Updated on March 7 2018 8:28 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

Effingham City Police Chief Jeff Fuesting and Effingham County Sheriff Dave Mahon talked with Effingham Unit 40 school board members and Superintendent Mark Doan about a change to the School Resource Officer program for the school district.

Under the change, Unit 40's SRO would be furnished by the Effingham Police Department rather than the Effingham County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Mahon said the change would give him another road deputy. Mahon added that the Unit 40 school buildings are within the city limits with the exception of Central, which is just outside the limits. Chief Fuesting said he gained experience working with SROs when he worked for the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department and has ideas for implementing additional programs to work with young people. Mahon said he would advise the County Board of the change, but said it is ultimately his decision.

The programs mentioned by Fuesting included a Teen Leadership Academy, social media safety, distracting driving prevention, mentoring, and anti-bullying programs. He said no city officers are SRO-trained, but said he has three officers highly interested in serving as SROs. He said the training could be completed in time for the start of the new school year.

Board member Angie Byers asked about Darren Feldkamp's duties as SRO for Unit 40 and whether he could work with the city officer taking over those duties. Sheriff Mahon responded that Feldkamp has done a great job, but noted that when Feldkamp was unavailable for an extended period due to a training injury, Deputy Jeremy Kyle performed well as SRO for the district. The sheriff said that Feldkamp would handle other duties and, as a corporal, would have a supervisory role in the department.

Fuesting mentioned that some of the city officers also have relationships with some of the Unit 40 student body and that those relationships would continue to grow as the SRO takes over in the district.

Unit 40 Superintendent Mark Doan said by phone Tuesday that two issues he has regarding a change are that the district has had a successful program for almost 20 years, so why do we need to change, and the cost, which is expected to climb with the City taking over the program.

Meanwhile, Fuesting will need to bring the matter to the attention of the City Council before anything can be finalized. He said, "I think we're doing this for the right reasons."

The school board also has the cost of the program to consider, since all five public school districts in the county help support the SRO program, paying a certain fee based on the number of students in their school districts. While the City would supply the SRO serving Unit 40 schools, the County would continue providing SROs for Teutopolis and Dieterich and for Altamont and Beecher City.

Doan said he hopes to move on the issue fairly quick and have the matter on the school board agenda for the regular March meeting later in the month.