VERMILION — There will be a new face at school this fall — and a badge.
The school district this month hired Benjamin Sargent as its newest school resource officer. Sargent will join Brian Beckwith, bringing the number of school resource officers to two for the 1,950-student body.
Sargent’s hiring is the fulfillment of a promise the district made to the community in 2018 after residents told school officials they wanted the schools to be safer, including added police presence, said Superintendent Phil Pempin.
Sargent was a patrol deputy with the Erie County Sheriff’s Office for the past six years but has ties to Vermilion — he lives in Vermilion and his wife, Sarah, is a teacher in the high school, Pempin said.
The district straddles Lorain and Erie counties. In November, voters approved a school safety and security levy that will pay for Sargent’s salary, among other things.
The district first asked for a school resource officer in the 1990s, said Police Chief Chris Hartung.
Hartung said he initially hired Sargent because all police officers must meet department and law enforcement standards and must be under the department’s authority. But he then asked his staff who might be interested in being a school resource officer, culled the best candidates from those interested, and presented those to Pempin.
“He had an excellent blend of being familiar with the community, full-time road experience and he started out with an early education degree,” Hartung said, adding that Sargent also was a good employee with Erie County.
Pempin conducted interviews of the top candidates with Hartung and Mayor Jim Forthofer before choosing Sargent.
“We felt confident that he’ll do a good job and we’re excited about having that second presence,” Pempin said. “We’re putting that safety levy money into action now and do what we said we were going to do at that forum in March 2018.”
Beckwith will primarily work at Vermilion High School and Sargent will be assigned to Sailorway Middle and Vermilion Elementary schools, Hartung said. They will work staggered shifts so that one officer will be on duty at morning arrivals and afternoon departures.
Sargent will be sworn in Aug. 8 along with another incoming officer, Ron Linkous, Hartung said. Sargent will spend time with Beckwith to get familiar with the schools before classes begin in September.
Linkous will replace retired Sgt. Jeff Chandler. Another officer, Kinzie Bates, was hired on full-time earlier this month to replace retired Cpl. Ricky Riggs. Bates is the second full-time female officer for the department.