The Waterloo School Board unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Waterloo City Council on Monday that provides for a school resource officer for the district from the Waterloo Police Department starting next school year.
“I personally like having a police presence,” Waterloo Superintendent Brian Charron said. “It certainly cannot solve every problem that we could have, but we also don’t know how many problems they prevent by being present, building a relationship with kids and staff and working with us on a preventative basis.”
The district has had an SRO in the past through grant money, but that position went away. It has periodically discussed bringing the position back.
Pending city council approving this agreement, the Waterloo SRO will be in the district for 180 days a year.
Waterloo Police Chief Jeff Prosise thanked the city council, Mayor Tom Smith, the school board and Charron for helping to make this happen, saying it will allow the WPD to “be more involved in the school district.”
“As a former school resource officer, I understand the importance of bridging the gap between law enforcement and our children,” Prosise said. “This is a positive step in that direction.”
The officer, who has not yet been announced, will mainly be at Waterloo High School and spend significant time at Waterloo Junior High School. He will also visit the elementary buildings at times.
This will allow the WPD to continue its walkthroughs with more of a focus on the elementary schools.
The agreement runs for three years, with the school district paying most of the cost for the officer’s time. It will pay $76,000, $78,000 and $80,000 a year, respectively, and renegotiate with the city at the end of the agreement.
In another personnel matter, the board accepted a letter of resignation from Mitch North, the district’s athletic director and WHS dean of students.
“Mitchell North has done a great job being an advocate and a voice for Waterloo athletes and programs,” Charron said. “His presence will be missed. I am thankful for everything he has done for us, and I’m delighted that we will still get to work with him and benefit from his leadership at Career Center of Southern Illinois.”
North, who has been with the district since 2016, will be taking over as principal/assistant director at CCSI, formerly known as Beck Area Career Center.
“The opportunity to move along in my career like that is one I was really interested in,” North said. “I’ve wanted to be a principal for a long time.”
North’s career in education started at an alternative school in Centralia, so he said it appealed to him to go back to that environment. North said he also liked the idea of serving students from around the area.
Current CCSI Director Mark Stuart is retiring at the end of this school year.
North said he will still live in Waterloo and be involved in the community.
“I enjoyed my time here,” he said. “I learned a lot and worked with a lot of really great people.”
A final noteworthy item from the meeting was the board’s vote on the official school calendar for the 2020-21 school year.
Normally an item that is passed unanimously and without discussion, school board president John Caupert asked if the board liked the planned spring break.
The proposed calendar had the district returning to its typical spring break, which occurs the Thursday and Friday before and the Monday after Easter.
This year, the district took the entire week off leading up to Easter, mainly because SAT testing is scheduled for the Tuesday after the holiday and it did not want students to be still in break mode for such a critical test.
Caupert said he prefers that schedule, with one of the main reasons being it gives families of student-athletes and band members an opportunity to take a vacation they might not otherwise get.
“Summers are almost nonexistent for those fall athletes and for those fall band members,” Caupert argued. “They don’t get 2.5 months off.”
Charron said the calendar he originally created had a week-long break, but he changed it because the majority of staff said they preferred the old way.
There were a number of reasons for that, according to the district principals who weighed in.
Those include that it is more difficult to get students back in a school mind-set after a week off and that making it back to school the Monday after Easter can be difficult if teachers and families travel.
The district has taken a week for spring break in the past, but in recent years it has taken Thursday, Friday and Monday off.
After little input by other board members, Caupert called for a vote. The calendar without the week of spring break passed 5-1, with Caupert voting against it and board member Neil Giffhorn abstaining.