- Sponsorship -

Double Duty

Two resource officers now stationed in district, ensuring safety and offering mentorship


Retired Barry County Sheriff’s Department officers Tony Stein and Jeff Nieuwenhuis, are splitting up time ensuring the student safety as co-school resource officers this year.

“Having two resource officers allows us the flexibility to cover more ground,” said Thornapple Kellogg Superintendent Robert Blitchok. “Student safety is our top concern and this is another form of our commitment to our students and community.”

Stein and Nieuwenhuis rotate between the district’s six elementaries, middle school, high school and the Learning Center, housing special education staff and preschool, each day, serving staff and 3,156 total students. The positions are funded through the district.

Stein has been on staff for three years and is excited to have Nieuwenhuis on his team.  “The best benefit to having two SROs is flexibility,” he said. “It’s a gift to be able to be in different buildings at different times, but also work together on student safety.”

Jeff Nieuwenhuis is assisted on the swing by McFall Elementary principal Jon Washburn and Law Griffin

Day-to-day

Stein and Niewenhuis organize weather, fire, active shooter and lockdown drills throughout the school year. “We’re there to make sure that things run smoothly,” Nieuwenhuis said. “We’re a familiar presence that is beneficial to the entire school community.”

Since the secondary buildings begin the school day first, Stein and Niewenhuis are stationed at the middle and high school in the morning and at dismissal time, then they move to the elementary schools.

“Overall, students are happy to see us in the halls,” Nieuwenhuis said. “It’s really cool to see students having a positive relationship with law enforcement.”

Jeff Nieuwenhuis is in his first year as SRO for Thornapple Kellogg schools

Devoted to the Community

Both Stein and Nieuwenhuis had strong connections with Thornapple Kellogg far before they worked for the school.

For the last 16 years of Stein’s service with the Barry County Sheriff’s Office, he was assigned to the Middleville unit where he worked with the schools on a regular basis. But when he retired from Barry County, he wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Thornapple Kellogg. He approached then Superintendent Tom Enslen, about working for the schools as a resource officer.

Now in his third year in the position, his favorite part of the job will always be the students, Stein said.

“The best part of the job is being able to help out the students and interact with them in a different way every day.”

Nieuwenhuis is a graduate of Plainwell High School and the Kalamazoo Valley Community College where he earned his degree in criminal justice. He worked 24 years with the Sheriff’s Department and, for the last several years, specialized as a detective in criminal sexual conduct and homicide cases. He has 29 total years in law enforcement starting with Otsego Police Department in Allegan County, the city of Wayland and the village of Middleville before coming to the Barry County office in 1994.

He also served as a school liaison for Barry County where he was assigned to Lakewood, Maple Valley and Thornapple Kellogg schools.  “I did that for three years and I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I enjoyed working here with the staff and I truly did enjoy the students at Thornapple. It’s a nice change of pace for sure.”

Though the transition from police force to school resource officer was something to get used to, Niewenhuis is excited to get back into schools. His wife is a teacher and daughter a Hope College student pursuing an education degree.

“Teaching is in our family,” he said. “I just really enjoyed it and thought this would be a nice career to step into after my career in law enforcement.”

Tony Stein (right) and Jeff Nieuwenhuis (left) will be working together to provide extra safety for Thornapple Kellogg students

Positive Influences

In addition to safety exercises and ensuring general student safety, both Stein and Nieuwenhuis have taken on mentorship roles. “A couple teachers have given me the names of some students that they feel need a positive role model in their lives,” Nieuwenhuis said. “I make sure I touch base with those students at least once a week just to talk about what’s going on with them and offer advice.”

The mentorship program works to help students see law enforcement in a positive way instead of as a negative influence.  “There’s one boy that I mentor that introduces me as his friend to his other friends,” Nieuwenhuis said. “Before, I was in investigations and corrections, but now my role has switched. I am more of a mentor and positive guy.”

Having this support system for students is very important to the community, Stein said. “(Community members) have been awesome and very thankful that Jeff and I are in the schools,” he said. “Whether it’s through personal contacts, people coming up to us and thanking us to posts on social media, things have been very nice.”

CONNECT

TK hires second resource officer

- Sponsorship -
Hannah Lentz
Hannah Lentz
A 2017 graduate of Grand Valley State University and a lifelong teacher’s kid, Hannah Lentz has worked as a journalist in and outside the Grand Rapids area for more than five years. After serving as editor-in-chief at the GVSU student newspaper, Hannah interned at the Leelanau Enterprise where she learned a lot about community journalism. In addition to her work for School News Network, Hannah has worked as a freelance blogger in the furniture industry, focusing on design trends, and as a social media manager for World Medical Relief in Detroit.

LATEST ARTICLES

Hands-on history: museum becomes classroom for curious students

It’s one thing to study about history in a virtual classroom; it’s another to be immersed in it inside a museum. Students from every area district now have the opportunity to experience hands-on lessons in after-school programs for third- through eighth-graders at the Grand Rapids Public Museum...

Teacher recruits from Puerto Rico find welcoming new home in Grand Rapids

A recruiting trip to Puerto Rico brought two new teachers to Grand Rapids as part of an innovative district effort to address a shortage of bilingual instructors...

Fifth-graders find beauty in science by dissecting marigolds

One teacher used readily available nature just outside school to introduce this year’s science unit, as well as flowers from home to study the parts of plants...

District bond request Nov. 3 includes upgrades, additions and community wellness & resource center

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools is asking voters to approve a 30-year, $17.79 million bond proposal to fund major reconstruction, additions and improvements to Lee Middle and High School...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Superintendent announces retirement, interim named

A former Byron Center superintendent is taking the reins at Thornapple Kellogg on an interim basis...

‘I didn’t give up’

If a challenge becomes an excuse, said senior Clair Jansma, “it's much harder to overcome and you sacrifice opportunities”...

Earth-friendly students ‘working to make a difference’

The newest club at Thornapple Kellogg Middle School focuses on living more sustainable lifestyles...
- Sponsorship -

HOW'S SCHOOL TODAY?

Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...

RADEMACHER & FRIENDS

Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -

MEDIA PARTNERS

Maranda Where You LiveWGVU

SUSTAINING SPONSORS