By Judy Reed
When students return to school in September, there will be a new face there to greet them. Deputy Tom McCutcheon was recently selected as the new school resource officer (SRO) for Cedar Springs Public Schools. The position is through a partnership with the Kent County Sheriff Department, which the Board of Education approved on June 6.
According to Sgt. Jason Kelley, of the KCSD Cedar Springs unit, interviews were held at the Cedar Springs Public Schools Administration Building on June 28, where eight members of the school had an opportunity to interview five candidates from the Sheriff Department for the position. As a result of the interviews, Deputy Tom McCutcheon was selected as the Cedar Springs School Resource Officer.
Deputy McCutcheon began his career with the Kent County Sheriff Department in 1993. During this time Deputy McCutcheon has gained extensive knowledge and experience in Community Policing. Deputy McCutcheon spent many years as a D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Instructor, speaking in many different school districts, including Cedar Springs.
“While teaching D.A.R.E., you were never at the same school two days in a row, but you still felt like you were part of something that helped kids change and was a good influence in their life,” noted McCutcheon.
The Post asked him why he wanted the SRO position in Cedar Springs. “I hope to be a positive influence to the young people there,” he explained. “A lot of people think of security, and students feeling safe. But it’s more. I want to be a part of the school. It’s like what being a community policing officer is; you try to be proactive. If there is criminal activity going on, and people look up to you and trust you, you can help reduce a lot of that.”
Deputy McCutcheon has a passion for serving kids and has had immense involvement in school and communities. He has served in the Comstock Park School District as a football and girls varsity softball coach. He started a local Boy Scout troop and established KOPS (Kids & Officers Productive Society, a program centered around helping disadvantaged youth build self-esteem to become productive students).
Deputy McCutcheon was recognized as the Kent County Sheriff Department Deputy of the Year in 2007, and School Officer of the year by the West Michigan Crime Prevention Association. He has also served as president of that same group.
The School Officer of the Year award was given to him for his work in the KOPS program. McCutcheon is proud of the work he did in that program. He said he had been working with the same young man over and over at East Kentwood’s alternative high school, who kept getting into trouble. He spoke with the principal, and they formed the program to help troubled youth get back on track. “Over the four years of the program, we had multiple grads go on to college or work; students go back to regular high school; and students that had no more involvement in crime,” he explained.
McCutcheon is excited to begin his new position in Cedar Springs in August, where he will be on campus 40 hours a week. “I am excited and looking forward to the challenge of getting to know them (the students) and them getting to know me. I’ll do what I can to help them succeed. It’s just another piece of the puzzle—me doing what I can to help them achieve their goals,” he said.
The position will be jointly funded by the school and the county. The Kent County Sheriff Department offered to fund 30 percent of the program. The outstanding cost to the district would be approximately $76,000, after the Sheriff Department’s contribution. The cost would cover wages and benefits for 40 hours per week for the deputy; all standard issued deputy equipment; a Kent County Sheriff car, fully equipped, fueled and maintained; and all police training and supervision.
“We look forward to our partnership with the Kent County Sherriff Department and a focus on school safety and security throughout our district,” said Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn. “We know through our surveys of staff and parents that they view safety and security as a priority for our CSPS and we do too! This initiative is just one way we are responding to that feedback. We now join many districts in Kent County in the SRO program and know it will serve us well.”