Suspensions are way down and attendance is up in the Taft City School District, and police resource officer Moises Martinez is getting much of the credit.
That was the crux of a presentation to the district board of trustees Wednesday night.
Lincoln Junior High Principal Brandi Swearengin gave glowing marks for the effectiveness of having a resource officer on campus, but it all might end soon.
“We are facing the possibility of having it end in February,” Swearengin told the board.
The city’s budget woes that spawned recent attrition layoffs could jeopardize the work of Martinez, whose services are shared with the Taft Union High School District.
Swearengin ticked off a list comparing suspensions and absenteeism this fall to last year’s numbers. The results were astonishing.
The presence of a uniformed officer on campus has drastically reduced the number of students sent to the principal’s office.
Attendance is up, too, and that means more revenue since funding is based on average daily attendance.
Simply put, the more classroom seats that are filled with students the more money the schools get.
Supt. Ron Bryant quantified it.
“A one percent absenteeism translates to $106,000,” he said.
“We are running at 96 percent attendance,” Swearengin said. “We’ve already acclimated to having better attendance.”
Missing class for a third time brings a visit from Martinez.
“Nobody wants him on their doorstep and that’s a beautiful thing,” Swearengin said.
Martinez, who has been a resource officer in other areas, told the board children in the TCSD are much better behaved.
“You have great kids here,” he said. “Compared to other schools I’ve worked at it is like night and day. I really like working with the kids.”
Swearengin said Martinez has a way of connecting with students other than the uniform.
“He’s always there talking to kids,” she said. “He develops relationships with our students.”
Martinez said he “chews their butts off” if it’s warranted but then lets it go.
“If I chew a kid out, the next day when I see them nothing is carried over. It’s always, ‘hi, how are you doing today?’”
He also has brought programs to the school such as the “Life Interrupted” program that drives home the consequences of drinking and driving.
He also brought a group of inmates from Taft Correctional Institution to the campus to talk about making the right choices.
Page 2 of 2 - “We had everything from a drug dealer to a millionaire who embezzled money,” Swearengin said. “It was a powerful message.”