They watch over 22,000 young people, protecting them while they study in the
And these sentries of school safety have a new chief. Veteran officer Don Fernald will lead the dozen officers in the school district's Police Department.
The 54-year-old brings 30 years of law enforcement experience to his new position. Fernald spent the last 28 years with the West Covina Police Department.
"Chief Fernald is an outstanding addition to the Rowland Unified Leadership Team. His background working with students and teachers through the GREAT Program makes him a perfect match for our district," said Superintendent Maria Ott.
GREAT stands for Gang Resistance Education and Training, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice. The goal is to prevent youth crime, violence and gang involvement, while building good relationships between law enforcement, families and students.
"I'd like to bring the GREAT program to Rowland," said Chief Fernald, who attended the national conference in
"Chief Fernald understands that safety begins with students and good decision-making. He has taught students throughout his career as an officer for the West Covina Police Department, and he is admired for his skill in building positive relationships with students and schools," Ott explained.
The top cop spent many years as a community relations and school resource officer in
"I've always liked working with children. I've been in many private and public schools," Fernald said.
One of the first changes the chief has made is putting his men in dark blue uniforms. No more polo shirts for his officers.
"I think we look more professional in our uniforms," said Cpl. Mike Dresen, who has been with the department for 21 years.
Fernald has also stepped up patrols around the schools in the slack summer season.
"Since school is out, I've had my 11 officers all working patrol," the pepper-haired chief said.
More patrols will follow in the fall, with units assigned to a northern and southern sector. Valley Boulevard will be the rough dividing line.
He would like to add enough officers to man the department around the clock seven days a week. Now the department runs two shifts a day.
"I think a night shift would help cut down on the vandalism," Fernald said.
The chief also wants his men to start carrying firearms. With well-publicized shootings in schools across the nation, Fernald noted it's important that his officers be able to defend themselves as well as staff and students.
"They're qualified to carry sidearms. School police in other districts already wear their weapons," Fernald said.
Rowland's top cop says one of his biggest challenges is to get more training for his officers.
"We have to coordinate with several city, sheriff's and CHP offices, so I want my officers certified to handle any case on school property," he said.
Fernald was an instructor with the East San Gabriel Valley ROP for 18 years. He taught two years with the La Puente Valley ROP.
"We want to build a good rapport with the students. Kids have invited me to attend their high school and college graduations," Fernald said.
Building relationships is very important. And rewarding.
"One young woman stopped me to say 'I know I was a real problem for you in the eighth-grade, but you helped me get through high school. Thanks,'" said the new chief, beaming.
firstname.lastname@example.org(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2801