Student resource officer sets tone in schools
Waldoboro — Checking hall passes may not sound like much of job for a person with Army Intelligence experience, but for the new school resource officer in Regional School Unit 40, it leads to so much more.
Tammi Morrison began her newest law enforcement assignment Jan. 6 — taking the place of the former SRO Tom Hoepner, who resigned in December. She is the fourth SRO in the program's 10-year history serving Medomak Valley High School and Medomak Middle School.
Morrison said she had to set the tone from day one on the job.
"I had to ask for the students to show me their hall passes to make sure they were where they were supposed to be," said Morrison. Now the students flash them to her before she has to ask.
"We are very pleased to have her," said MVHS Principal Harold Wilson. "She is an asset for the school and sets the tone," said Wilson.
After serving in the Army for 20 years — including as an Intelligence Officer, Morrison decided to retire. "I owed it to my kids," she said, explaining she had to uproot her family every two to four years during her career. She now resides in Union with her two sons — Garrett, 13, and Kaleb, 11, — who attend school in the district. She also has a grown daughter.
Morrison initially came back last May to the area she grew up in and took a position with the Knox County Sheriff's Office in September 2013, serving on North Haven.
"Leaving that post with the sheriff's department was the toughest decision," said Morrison on accepting the SRO job. "They are a great group of people."
The sheriff's department had sponsored Morrison through the 200-hour program on her way to being certified as a patrol officer. She is looking forward to August when she will take the 18-week course at the police academy and become fully certified.
"I'm confident she will do well at the SRO position," said Chief Deputy Tim Carroll, who lost Morrison from his Knox County Sheriff's Office to the Waldoboro Police Department to fill this full-time position.
Morrison not only will attend the police academy, she is scheduled to attend on-going training including, Police Interaction with Youth and Youth Mental Health First Aid in the next couple weeks.
"The SRO serves as a host of many different things, not just as a legal representative," stated Waldoboro Police Chief Bill Labombarde.
"They are a teacher and mentor as well to the more than 1,000 students and staff on that campus," said Labombarde.
Walking the halls of the schools, Morrison has the opportunity to get to know different personalities, however she said, "there are not enough hours in the day to comprehend what makes each one of them tick."
Morrison said she can tell those kids that are "just good kids" — the ones that want to do good. "I treat them like I do my own kids," she said adding "It helps them to open up."
A tough upbringing is what Morrison credits for her ability to be an effective role model. Her mother was a single mom with three children, and she did not have much growing up. That, combined with her Army experience, gives her the level of understanding and empathy needed to reach out to the students — especially those with behavioral issues.
"The system helped me grow up, but I didn't want to stay in it," she added.
She also said she was positively influenced by Chris Blackmon, guidance counselor at Oceanside East and Dennis Black, then basketball coach at Rockland District High School.
"I tell the kids 'you can't control some things in your life, but what you can control is your future and what you make of yourself'," said Morrison
"I am good for this job. I can relate to the kids and help give them direction," said Morrison. She explained a situation where a student said as soon as he turned 17 he was going to quit school.
"I sat him down and worked on a budget of trying to live on $8 an hour," she said. "It was a real eye-opener."
Morrison said one of her biggest challenges is to get people — especially parents — to hold their kids accountable. She wishes every parent would volunteer one day at the school to see what goes on.
"I am a realist," Morrison said. "You don't do this for the money. You do it because you really care," she said. "At the end of the day, it is rewarding."
Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.