By NICHOLAS A. FISCHER
Our district's two school resource officers are employed by the New London Police Department and are not only charged with keeping the lives inside the school buildings safe, but are responsible for preventing problems before they start and maintaining relationships with students that go beyond the blue uniform.
Officers Max Bertsch and Anthony Nolan are among the unsung heroes of New London Public Schools.
Officer Bertsch is entering his fifth year as the school resource officer at New London High School.
Officer Nolan has decided to not return this school year as the SRO for the district's three elementary schools and Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School. He will remain employed by the New London Police Department and has promised that his commitment to the city's youth will remain as strong as it is.
The students at all schools will miss him greatly.
In his approximately nine years as a school resource officer, it isn't uncommon to see students walk past him and extend their hand for a high-five, or for him to address a student by name and ask how their day is going. He makes a difference in the students' lives because he takes the time during his day to make them feel special.
When the school district's Drug Abuse Resistance Education program discontinued, Officer Nolan started his own program to help educate youth beyond drug abuse. He taught his Smart Choice program four days a week at the elementary school which included D.A.R.E subjects but also expanded into bullying, peer pressure and good behavior. Officer Nolan also makes an impact where it counts: in the community where he works.
Recognizing the need for students to have an outlet, he's helped coordinate the popular New London Youth Talent Show, entering its fourth year.
Officer Bertsch works diligently throughout the school year to stop the spread of crime-related activities in and outside of the school and also assures students that they can always find a friend in him.
A police presence at the high school was something some students needed time to adjust to, but Officer Bertsch encapsulates all of the qualities needed in a school resource officer.
Officer Bertsch, along with the help of other New London police officers, has completely eliminated the presence of gang activity within our high school. When he arrived four years ago, students wore clothing with gang affiliated colors. Now, they proudly wear New London police t-shirts.
To continue his commitment to keeping his community safe, Officer Bertsch led a school bus full of high school students around the City of New London to approach convenience store and gas station owners to ask them to stop selling synthetic marijuana, an illegal substance beginning to rear its head as a popular alternative to marijuana for teenagers.
When Officer Bertsch realized at the end of the 2012 school year that some of the students had never been fishing or on a boat, he took more than 30 of them on a chartered fishing trip to Long Island Sound. His reason: because he was fortunate enough to have a father who had a boat and took him fishing.
They've expanded the students' outlook on life, introduced them to new experiences, given them the courage to face opposition. But most importantly, they've kept them safe.
Thank you for your work, Officer Bertsch and Officer Nolan.
Nicholas A. Fischer is the New London superintendent of schools.