For the Marion School District security team, school safety is about more than physical protection – it’s about becoming a true part of each school community, and fostering a culture of trust and cooperation among officers, students, and staff.
“We want to do more than protect the school,” said Campus Security Director John Evans, who leads the district’s team. “Our goal is to get involved and engaged with the students. When you have a relationship with the kids, there is a built-in sense of trust between us. We’re here to protect them, and they’re there to help us. My mission is to be proactive to protect the campus, rather than mitigation.”
Over the years, Evans said the campus security team has worked to consistently ensure the safety of students and staff within the schools. But even as the team has grown and evolved, Evans said the focus has always been assisting students in need and creating a positive environment throughout the district. While building the campus security team, Evans was joined by retired Arkansas Highway Patrol Officer Gregory Massey and retired Marion Police Dept officer Steve Johnson. With prior experience working with local law enforcement and Highway Patrol teams, the addition of certified law enforcement officers provides an extended level of protection and community integration among the security team for the Marion School District.
At the Marion Math, Science & Technology Magnet, the first face students and parents see in the morning at the car-riders line is Massey’s -- rain or shine. Massey’s morning routine often consists of greeting each student, -- starting the day with a brigade of fist bumps. Over his years with MST, Massey has hosted pizza and donut parties for students across the school to provide a positive and supportive environment.
“Being in the school system, you interact with the same people every day,” said Massey. “It’s a big difference from working with Highway Patrol. I’ve been able to get to know the kids at MST, and they’ve become family. They run up and hug me, I get more than a hundred hugs a day, and they always give me fist bumps. I just want to make a positive, life-changing impression on our students for them to do good going forward.”
Through the years, the Marion School District Security Team has been able to restart the “Shop With a Cop” program to better equip students with essentials and meet the needs of students through gracious donations from the Marion community.
“It’s very gratifying to see a child go into Walmart and you expect them to gravitate towards toys and games, but they ask for everyday essentials,” said Evans. “That experience was very heartfelt."
The security team focuses on the idea of meeting students where they are in an effort to better support students of all ages across the district. The campus security team supports students by driving those with transportation issues to the school in specific circumstances, having one-on-one conversations to better connect students to resources, and providing belts and coats to students with needs.
“When I see a kid without a belt in the junior high school, I take a minute to talk to him and explain the importance of appearance,” said Evans. “We give out these donated belts to students, not only to help keep them within the dress code, but to help prepare them for after school, where appearance is important. These little moments can make the impact of a lifetime.”
In an effort to better connect with the Marion School District community, the security team has worked to create a downloadable app for anonymous reporting. The Marion StudentProtect application has been used to report bullying, threats, and suspicious activity across all school campuses to better protect students and staff. This app is open for students, teachers, staff, and parents to download.
A special thank you to all Marion School District Campus Safety and Security team members, including Michael Almeda, Jeffery Collier, Chances Warren, Marlin Brown, Louis Hatchett, Kenneth Cauley Sr., Jerry Henry, Arburt Robinson, Lashonda Mayhew, Dewayne Allen, Roger Woolbright, Gregory Massey, and John Evans.
The Marion School District is an innovative and growing district committed to helping every student find their unique path to success in school and in life. With more than 150 years of experience serving families in Crittenden County, the district offers a high school, a junior high, and three award-winning magnet schools. For enrollment information, including information on school choice, visit https://www.msd3.org/ or call 870-739-5100.