Barrington resource officer earns gold star from school officials

Officer Josh Melo says he could do even more if position was full-time

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"I'm a big fan of yours."

"I'm thrilled with the investment we made in this position."

"This is one of the best decisions we've made."

These are some of the quotes shared by Barrington school officials about the district's school resource officer, Josh Melo, during a recent school committee meeting.

Barrington's girls' basketball team is off to a strong start.

During a brief review of the position, school committee members and central office administrators shared plenty of kind words with Officer Melo, who has served as the district's SRO for the last year and a half. 

Officer Melo answered questions from the committee members and shared some insight into his role and experiences while spending time at Barrington's six public schools. Officer Melo also told school committee members that he believes the school resource officer position in Barrington should be full-time. 

Currently, the local officer spends some of his time working at the schools and the rest of his work-week with the detectives division at the Barrington Police Department.

While officials seemed to support the idea of a full-time school resource officer, the initial proposed budget for local schools does not include additional funding for an increased role for the SRO. 

"Not yet," added Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore during a followup interview. 

The top school official said more work needs to be done to explore an expanded role for the school resource officer.

Officer Melo told school committee members that with more time, he could offer more support to Barrington students and spend more time focusing on making schools safer. But even without full-time status, Officer Melo still received plenty of praise for his work.

Barrington School Committee Chairwoman Kate Brody said she was thrilled with the district's "investment" and questioned if Officer Melo could spend more time doing outreach. Officials said the SRO has done a good job responding to the schools even when it is not during school hours. In addition, Officer Melo has attended parent teacher organization meetings to speak with parents.

School committee member John Alessandro said he was very happy to have Officer Melo working in Barrington schools, in part because he is a good role model for students. Mr. Alessandro said the work Officer Melo does for the district was "so important."

The school committee member also asked Officer Melo what issues students discuss with him. The school resource officer said students are often dealing with social media-related problems. He suggested local parents spend more time monitoring their children's social media involvement.

"It's all about monitoring," he added.

The SRO was also asked whether the law change in Massachusetts regarding marijuana has had an impact on local schools — whether he had seen a rise in marijuana-related incidents.

Officer Melo said he had not seen an increase, but added that if he was able to spend more time at the schools he could better research the subject.

Toward the end of the discussion, Mr. Messore offered praise to Officer Melo. He said that simply adding an SRO to a school district does not automatically result in positive results — much of the success of the position depends on the individual officer. Mr. Messore said Officer Melo has made the extra effort to work with local students and school staff and done an exemplary job.

"Josh has been great," he said. 

Change of attitude

During the recent Barrington School Committee meeting, school resource officer Josh Melo told board members that his time in the schools has helped change the relationship between local young people and the Barrington Police Department. He shared a quick story about how students used to react when Barrington Police Chief John LaCross visited the high school. "They all had their heads down," he said. Now it's different, he said, adding that students will take the time to say hello to the chief.

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