When students returned to Lawrence Township Public Schools this year, a new addition at three district schools awaited them.
Student resource officer Suzanne Girard greeted Lawrence High School Students, and class three officers Rick Doldy and Matt Nemes welcomed students in Lawrence Middle School and Lawrence Intermediate School, respectively.
The district added the officers in schools party in response to the increase of shootings and intruder incidents in schools across the nation. After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last February, a group of Lawrence residents organized a meeting to discuss security in township schools. The group wanted the district to take additional security measures.
“The safety of our children is our greatest responsibility and we are dedicated to their well-being,” superintendent Ross Kasun said in a statement. “With the addition of our SRO and class three officers, we have intensified our focus on safety and security efforts to make certain that students and staff are safe.”
All officers are hired with the goal to help keep students and staff safe from an outside intruder. However, unlike school resource officers who are active police officers, class three officers are retired law enforcement officials who previously served as fully trained, full-time cops in New Jersey. They must go through SRO-required training, and their role is to be a visible presence in the schools.
Class three officers do not have the same salary as SROs and because the Class III officers are retired, a district does not have to pay health or pension benefits.
Lawrence Acting Police Chief Brian Caloiaro said that class three officers do not teach, discipline children, or investigate. Additionally, he emphasized school administrators are in charge of the officers when they are in the schools.
Lawrence Town Council and the Lawrence Board of Education joined forces to find funding within their respective budgets for the new positions. Previously, SROs were in LHS and LMS until about 2012. Due to financial constraints, the position was eliminated.
Meet the officers:
Rick Doldy, a class three officer, grew up in Lawrence and is a LHS graduate. After first starting in electrical engineering, Doldy changed careers, became a Lawrence police officer, and earned a BS in Homeland Security and National Preparedness. Doldy has high and middle school aged children.
Suzanne Girard, an SRO, is in her 17th year as a Lawrence police officer and worked as a deputy court administrator for the Lawrence Municipal Court for five years prior. A few years ago, she served as an SRO at LIS and LMS. Girard is married to a LHS graduate and they have three children ages 11, 8, and 6.
Charles “Matt” Nemes, a class three officer, was a police officer for 25+ years. He began on the Trenton force and then transferred to the Ewing Police Department, from which he retired in 2017. While in Trenton, Nemes was part of the street crimes unit and also the SWAT team. He was transferred into the K9 unit and became a certified K9 trainer. He assisted in and trained over 200 dogs in a span of 17 years. Nemes is married and has three sons, ages 23, 16 and 14.