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Officer Poach Discusses Life on the Job

Langley's school resource officer named most distinguished.

<bt>At the end of every school year, for 10 years, Officer David Poach has decided to return to Langley High School for the upcoming year. "Every year the police department asks me if I would like to stay for the upcoming school year," said Poach.

On June 15 Poach won the Fairfax County Public School's award for Most Distinguished School Resource Officer (SRO). The job of an SRO involves such activities as ensuring school safety, teaching students about the legal system and establishing positive relationships with students. Poach won this award over a pool of nine nominees.

The criteria for winning the award included establishing positive relations with students, enhancing curriculum through classroom participation and acts of valor.

"He is very approachable and is a mentor to many students," said Robert Sanders, an assistant principal at Langley, of Poach. " He also creates close relationships with many students," added Sanders.

Poach said he thoroughly enjoys his job. "Seeing a freshman grow to an upperclassman can be very fulfilling," said Poach. But job satisfaction for Poach does not only come at the end of the year, but at regular intervals at seeing students accomplishments. "I like seeing kids being involved, period," he said.

POACH STARTED working at Langley High School part time, gradually working longer hours as his position developed and became more clearly defined. He was originally assigned to walk patrol on the streets surrounding the school. However, when the program was "phased in" as Poach describes it, he began to work at Langley full time. Poach decided to take on this job because he felt that it would be a "new type of challenge and opportunity."

Since a lot of Poach's job involves interacting with students, he has gained insights into some of the problems they face today. "Most kids struggle with issues involving academics, peer issues and issues relating to the family. Many of the issues affecting kids today are not dramatically different from different generations," said Poach. One exception, he says, is that many youths do not understand that they have to be accountable.

"School rules and consequences are more serious today," Poach said.

He also noted that many students at Langley are well-rounded and pursue activities outside of the classroom, which keeps them from straying from their goals.

But his job would be difficult without a close working relationship with some of the school's administrators. When asked about how he collaborates with the school's administrators on a daily basis, Poach explained that they meet to discuss the student body and that they keep a running commentary throughout the day.

Principal Bill Clendaniel worked with Poach his first four years at Langley when Clendaniel was vice principal. Clendaniel feels that Poach has made a "tremendous impact" on Langley's students. "He has transcended the role of SRO by becoming nonthreatening to many of Langley's students," said Clendaniel. "He has changed people's whole perspective on law enforcement," explained Clendaniel.

Vice Principal Elaine Laine, one of the faculty members working closely with Poach, also had positive things to say. Laine felt that he is "well deserving" of his award. She described Poach's close relationship with faculty, saying he is "like a staff member."

Fred Ellis, the director of safety and security for Fairfax County Public schools, who had a large part in determining the recipient of the award, said, "Dave clearly stood out. He has always got great ratings."

THE SRO PROGRAM was started in Virginia in the mid-1990's to educate youth of high school and middle school age about safety issues and legal matters. This provides Virginia's schools with authority figures who are able to help youth with certain issues that could be difficult to address inside of the classroom. A great deal of a resource officer's job also involves working with students, many of whom have had behavioral or academic issues.