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SRO Sgt. Vandoorne to be replaced

Sheriff-elect Corey Lee will be making changes to Stark County's school resource officer program, the first of which is happening soon. Effective Jan. 1, Sgt. Ron VanDoorne will no longer be a Stark County school resource officer (SRO). Since the...

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Sheriff-elect Corey Lee will be making changes to Stark County's school resource officer program, the first of which is happening soon.

Effective Jan. 1, Sgt. Ron VanDoorne will no longer be a Stark County school resource officer (SRO). Since the schools are on break during that time, his last day will be the day before the schools close for Christmas break.

"He will be missed," said Brent Bautz, superintendent of the Richardton-Taylor School District, who said VanDoorne's presence and contacts were beneficial to the school.

"If we were having behavior issues with a kid, he would assist us with that," Bautz said. "Nobody wanted to sit in his office, of course. It was good. They could go sit in there and we could take care of other things."

VanDoorne's help went beyond himself; he had contacts in various community organizations that could help the school, as well.

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"If we need to talk to juvenile court, he knows the people at juvenile court; he knows people at social services," Bautz said. "It was really great teamwork. That just gave us more added resources for trying to help kids."

His presence at the school also helped the town of Richardton, which doesn't have its own police department, Bautz said. Although the Dickinson police were a call away, it takes them time to get to Richardton.

"There is that lag time between here and wherever, so it was nice to have a person on the eastern side of the county," Bautz said. "If there was an accident or something, Mr. VanDoorne would then take off so he could be there as soon as possible."

Bautz said VanDoorne had received a letter letting him know of the change, which he then told the schools in which he works, Richardton-Taylor and Belfield. The Richardton-Taylor School Board invited Lee to the board meeting to talk about the future of the SRO program.

"We had heard different stories, and we just wanted to see where he was at and what direction he was planning on going," Bautz said.

Lee said the program would continue, ideally with an SRO for Belfield and South Heart (where Lee currently works part-time as SRO) and a separate SRO for Richardton-Taylor. In determining the schedule for the SROs, Lee said they would visit with the schools to determine what their needs are.

The addition of a second full-time SRO would require additional funding, for which Lee said they would need help from the schools.

Previously, after the program's first year, which was funded by a grant, it was funded through the sheriff's department, said Bautz. He's concerned about the district's ability to contribute.

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"We don't have a lot of resources to be paying for an SRO," he said.

The new SROs won't be starting Jan. 1. Instead, Lee's department will look at hiring them by the start of the next school year.

"Our administration felt we needed to move on, and we have some different visions and different ideas of what we want to do," Lee said. "We're just going to start off with that rather than make a change six months down the road."

Lee said he understands the school's concern of not having a full-time SRO in the meantime, but he believes the department can still provide quality coverage.

"I'm going to expect deputies to walk through the schools as much as possible," he said. "With that in mind, obviously if the schools have needs or wants ... please call if you need something cause we have officers I know can do well in the school settings."

He said he plans to restructure the department to allow deputies more time in the field.

"I think that they're going to see a large influx of uniform officer time in the schools, and I think they're going to be surprised how much we're there," he said.

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