Payson Will Likely Get Funding For School Resource Officers


School resource officers in Payson will live to see another day.

Payson Unified School District will likely receive more than $200,000 in funding for two resource officers and a probation officer, essentially the same as last year.

This year's highly competitive application process left many schools, including some in large districts, without resource officers, said Susan Campbell, a district receptionist who also writes grants.

Of 367 schools that applied for the available $14.3 million statewide, 212 received funding. The laws governing the state's School Safety Program changed recently, which increased the number of schools applying.

Campbell said she attended a two-hour workshop just to learn the best way of filling out the near 15-page application.

The applications were approved before legislators passed the state budget -- "that was the caveat," said Superintendent Casey O'Brien. Decisions will soon solidify.

One resource officer will serve Payson High School and Julia Randall Elementary School, and another will serve Rim Country Middle School, Frontier Elementary and Payson Elementary.

"The one change in our grant this year is we were not funded to work at the Center for Success," said Payson Police Chief Don Engler.

Engler attributed the denial to the school's small size. District officials say the change won't significantly impact the program's success.

O'Brien said that since students tend to work independently there, "it doesn't lend itself as well," to resource officers.

The state approved applications by school, and not by districts, Campbell said.

Engler said the district was so successful in procuring grant money largely because it complies with 90 required hours of law related education each semester.

"That is a very big benefit to the youth of the district," he said. Officers school students on issues ranging from the criminal justice system to the Constitution to drug education. A school probation officer started a mock trial club at the high school. Elementary school students weigh innocence or guilt in the case of the Three Little Pigs versus the Big Bad Wolf.

Fifth-graders discuss whether John Wilkes Booth should plead insanity concerning the murder of Abraham Lincoln.

Cinderella teaches kids lessons about bullying.

"Their job is not to be campus policemen," O'Brien said. "They're really there proactively."

Though the grant lasts for one year, legislators are discussing extending that period to three years, according to information from Arizona's Department of Education. In that case, Payson's approved schools would continue to receive money.

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