Thursday, August 24, 2000
Steamboat Springs It's deja vu for Jason Patrick. He's back walking the halls he walked at Steamboat Springs High School a decade ago. Once a Sailor, always a Sailor.
Some people know Patrick as a sergeant with the Steamboat Springs Police Department. Others will recall him as a nifty play-making guard on the Sailor basketball team in 1990 and 1991. When students return to the high school on Monday, Jason Patrick will be there in his new role as school resource officer.
Patrick is assuming the position established by officer Jerry Stabile, who became the local high school's first resource officer three years ago. Patrick must now play the delicate role of enforcing the law at the high school while he gains the trust of the students as a mentor and someone they can turn to for advice.
For now, Patrick, 27, is pretty busy just redefining his role with his old teachers.
"It's a strange feeling, addressing the teachers by their first names," Patrick said. "Coach Meek will always be 'coach.'"
Once he gets over the awkwardness of getting to know some of his old teachers on a first-name business, Patrick can get down to the business of earning the trust of the students. He has a head start because he's teaching a defensive driving course.The upperclassmen must pass the course in order to obtain permits to drive to school and park in the high school parking lot.
Assistant Principal Mike Knezevich said Thursday he thinks Patrick's connection to Steamboat Springs High School will be a big plus. He was selected from among four applicants by a committee that include school administrators, faculty, students and a parent.
"As a graduate of the high school, I think he's going to be just great," Knezevich said. "I'm looking forward to his youth and enthusiasm. I noticed that last year he came to school events whether he was on duty or off duty. We'd see him at a ball game or a play. That really said a lot to me."
Knezevich said the community probably doesn't realize how many hours Stabile devoted to his former role.
"The connection that he's made with kids he was there at all the dances and he pretty much ran the homecoming activities, including gathering the wood for the homecoming bonfire. He also gave up his Saturdays to announce the high school wrestling meets. And he's still coaching football," Knezevich said. "He really was kind of an unsung hero."
Knezevich added that he values the partnership formed between the school and the police department as a result of Stabile's work.
Knezevich said Patrick will play a variety of roles during the school day. He could be helping to supervise the parking lot in the morning and going over the school's lock-down policy with administrators in the afternoon. In the academic vein, he will help to teach the school's leadership class.
In addition, he's likely to teach lessons in a variety of academic classes. For example, talking to history students about the constitutional aspects of Miranda rights.
Patrick said his old high school has changed; it's bigger than it used to be 10 years ago and the individuals that make up the student body come from more diverse backgrounds. Had he and his classmates had the benefit of a school resource officer, he believes they would have looked at police officers differently.
"We had no contact with the police unless we were in trouble," Patrick said.
Many of the more important aspects of the school resource officer's job are less tangible than planning homecoming or teaching defensive driving, Knezevich said.
"The key is visibility and meeting with the kids informally," Knezevich explained. "Once you develop that trust, it's a direct link. The kids come to him with information and all kinds of questions.
Patrick said he recently returned from a weeklong seminar for school resource officers that devoted two days to walking the fine line between being a police officer and being someone the kids can trust. He says he knows he has to use discretion as a policeman whose beat is a public school.
"It's going to be an interesting challenge," Patrick said. "You have to decide: where do you take action and where do you give them a break? Sometimes there's no choice. I hope they look at the uniform and see someone who could help them out. The ultimate goal is to help them learn what to do when they're actually in society."
To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail email@example.com