As school districts across the nation search for ways to upgrade their security procedures, Ravenna can boast that it already has a police presence in its schools.
The Ravenna School District, which has employed a school resource officer on and off through the years, has had Ravenna police officer Scott Paolucci serving in its schools consistently since the beginning of the school year.
District administrators praise his rapport with students, saying they appreciate having an officer with whom they can share their concerns.
"He has the perfect demeanor for a school resource officer," said Lorie Marozzi, Ravenna High School principal. "He can calmly diffuse any situation. He's just a great asset to our district."
When school is in session, Paolucci works full time, dividing his time between the high school, Brown Middle School and the district's elementary buildings. He also serves as the district's truancy officer, knocking on doors of students who skip school.
Superintendent Dennis Honkala said the district contracts to have Paolucci on staff for all 176 days of the school year. When students are on winter, spring or summer breaks, Paolucci switches to patrol for the city's police department. But when he's working in the schools, the district picks up his entire salary.
"It's that important," Honkala said.
The district switches up Paolucci's schedule to keep students guessing.
Honkala said the district upgraded its security procedures in light of recent school shootings, locking every door in all buildings once the school day begins and putting in buzz boxes, requiring visitors to report directly to the school office. District staff also will go through ALICE training in January, he said.
ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate and involves teaching insight and response options when encountering an active shooter. The program was created by Texas law enforcement officers after the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado.
Paolucci said he served as a school resource officer for several years until 2004, when layoffs forced the department to put him back into patrol because special assignments were canceled. In 2007, he returned to the schools and was put back onto patrol in 2010 when the city again had financial constraints.
This year, he returned to the school after Honkala, a former high school principal who remembered the importance of a school resource officer, offered to have his salary paid by the district.
Paolucci's years in the schools have him talking like an educator, saying that he deals with "anything that might come up in the assistant principal's office." That can mean either a student in trouble, or one who is upset about something.
He likes to think that he prevents more issues than he solves, boasting that there has been only one fight between students this year. When called upon to address students or give a presentation on law enforcement, he does so gladly.
He said at the beginning of the school year, he reminded students that animals resort to violence, but humans should be able to communicate rationally.
"As humans, we should communicate, and not resort to an animal mentality," he said.
A Ravenna resident with two daughters in the schools, he said many of the students in the district are friends of his daughters. Fellow police officers, he said, often ask him to see if certain students are aware of issues that they are investigating.
"If something is going on in the community, it's going on in the school, because the school is just a small city," he said. "One of the safest places for young people is the school district."
But he said districts must always be prepared for the possibility that problems may come to the school. He's certified in ALICE training and is an advocate for it, and will be a presenter when the school district undergoes its own training.
"I often think that a few years ago, if somebody had said there was going to be a school shooting in Ravenna or Chardon, I don't think anybody would have said Chardon," he said, adding that it is impossible to predict where a tragedy will take place next.
He said many factors have led to incidents in Chardon and Connecticut, with mental health being chief among them, and disagrees with calls to arm teachers with weapons.
"Teachers are very educated and capable people," said Paolucci, whose wife works at one of the district's elementary schools. "But I don't think people went into education to have a weapon strapped on them."
Instead, he says the key is to intervene with troubled children early on, something he likes to think he does in his position. He notes that the district has some students who have similar challenges to those believed to have been experienced by shooting suspects, and those students are doing well.
Tara Reis, principal of Brown Middle School, said students look forward to seeing Paolucci, and many know him because his oldest daughter was a student at Brown not long ago.
"The kids always say, 'I really like it when Officer Paolucci is here,' " she said. "I think that's a great comment from our students."
Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or firstname.lastname@example.org