PEORIA (HOI) – Princeville and and Pleasant Valley school districts will each now have one officer to deal with campus security and safety.
Brett Merna is the new school resource officer at the Pleasant Valley School District. In his new role, he will be in charge of safety and security for both the elementary and separate middle school buildings.
“This is a very important job, to keep the kids safe, to be around and to build positive connections with the community and the students,” said Merna.
Merna added that building those connections will make up a lot of his daily work at Pleasant Valley.
“Showing my face around the school, walking around a lot, interacting with the kids, interacting with the teachers and the parents, and just keeping my eye out on things and just making sure things are safe,” said Merna.
District Superintendent Tracy Fork said the district had planned on hiring an officer for some time now because of the increased worry about mass shootings in and around schools. Sheriff Brian Asbell says it is becoming a more common trend.
“All these school districts are having these same conversations, what the best route to keep kids safe, and a school resource officer is an option there,” said Asbell.
Asbell echoed Merna, saying the relationships developed by officers can be crucial in building trust among students.
“You build relationships, and they’re gonna again be more to apt to provide information and hopefully prevent a tragedy from happening,” he said.
The school district will use property taxes to pay the Sheriff’s office around $100,000 per year. Asbell says that covers salary, equipment, and other required training. Classes at Pleasant Valley start Monday.
Princeville School District will also have a new resource officer when they return to class tomorrow.