Steamboat Springs High School resource officer Josh Carrell, center, visits with his freshman anchor class students, from left, Carlos Hernandez, Ali Pougiales, Alex Alfone and Lizzie Fulton on Wednesday.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Steamboat Springs High School resource officer Josh Carrell, center, visits with his freshman anchor class students, from left, Carlos Hernandez, Ali Pougiales, Alex Alfone and Lizzie Fulton on Wednesday.

District, city split cost of resource officer

Groups agree to continue shared funding for position

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— For the second time, the Steamboat Springs School District and the Steamboat Springs Police Department will split the cost of funding a school resource officer position at the high school.

The Steamboat Springs School Board recently signed off on Officer Josh Carrell's contract, which includes salary and benefits. Superintendent Shalee Cunningham and Public Safety Directory J.D. Hays said the contract is the same as last year's, with the school district paying $32,964 to cover its half of Carrell's salary. The district also will split the cost of his benefits but will not pay more than the equivalent of half of what it costs to provide benefits to a full-time district employee.

After more than a decade of footing the bill for the resource officer, the city asked the school district to share costs beginning in January - the second semester of the 2008-09 school year - during a difficult budget year, Hays said.

Hays said when he called Cunningham this year to discuss continuing to share the resource officer costs, she responded by saying "absolutely."

"We're honored to have him," Cunningham said. "He works for the whole district, not just the high school."

Hays said when the district first agreed to split the costs for Carrell's services, it said it would re-evaluate on an annual basis whether to continue doing so in future years. He said if the district's financial situation wouldn't allow it to cover half the costs of the position, the school resource officer program wouldn't go away.

"If they were to have a big problem, it would be my recommendation the city would go forward and pay the whole thing," Hays said. "It's a worthwhile program."

Cunningham said it's common for school districts and cities to split the costs of school resource officers.

Hays said not only has Carrell - who began his second full year as the district's school resource officer this year - worked to provide a law enforcement presence in Steamboat schools, but he has developed relationships with students.

Cunningham said that was one the district's goals. She said if students have positive relationships with the city's law enforcement officers, they will be more comfortable approaching police if they need help.

Carrell's interactions with students in various groups - including the high school's leadership class, as a senior class co-sponsor and as an assistant soccer coach - have helped him develop those relationships.

That, Carrell said, is one of the most important aspects of his job. He's not just a cop, but a father and a husband, and the students understand that, Carrell said.

In his role, Carrell said he would love to continue strengthening the relationships between youths and law enforcement in the community.

"I am very thankful this position exists and gives me an opportunity to work with people, the youth of the community," he said. "They're so much fun, innovative and creative. It's awesome to work with people at that point in their lives when the sky is the limit."

- To reach Jack Weinstein, call 871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@steamboatpilot.com

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