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South Fayette school resource officer, police department honored

Jim Spezialetti
| Wednesday, July 27, 2016, 11:45 a.m.
South Fayette police Sgt. Jeff Sgro (right) and Chief John Phoennik display the Model SRO Agency Award from the National Association of School Resource Officers.
Jim Spezialetti | Tribune-Review
South Fayette police Sgt. Jeff Sgro (right) and Chief John Phoennik display the Model SRO Agency Award from the National Association of School Resource Officers.

South Fayette police Sgt. Jeff Sgro didn't know much about the school resource officer program when he applied for the newly created position in April 2013.

Since then, Sgro, 47, has made a positive impact on students in the South Fayette School District, where he is a graduate.

“It's all about creating good, healthy relationships, not only between the SRO and students but with the faculty, parents and community,” Sgro said.

Sgro and the South Fayette Police Department were recognized this month by the National Association of School Resource Officers with the Model SRO Agency Award.

Sgro traveled to the association's national conference in Anaheim, Calif., to receive the award.

“This one is for the department,” said Sgro, who started as a patrolman in South Fayette in 1999 and was promoted to sergeant in 2012.

“We're fortunate to have that relationship with the school district,” police Chief John Phoennik said. “The department has always been open to working with the school, but Jeff deserves the credit.”

During the school year, Sgro works every day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. The campus setting enables Sgro to visit all four school buildings.

“There are big differences in your approach for the kindergartners and the seniors,” Sgro said. “It's fun and it's challenging.”

For the high school students, one key program is Impact Teen Drivers, based in California. The program helps educate teenagers about responsible driving.

At the Intermediate School, Sgro organizes a crime scene investigation project with Stephanie DeLuca, the curriculum, innovation and technology coordinator.

Sgro also created Project Pride that encourages fifth-grade students to make positive decisions.

“The relationship built with students doesn't end when they graduate,” said Phoennik, who served as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer for about 10 years. Phoennik said he still gets phone calls from those he mentored.

During the summer, Sgro returns to his regular police duties but doesn't lose contact with the students. Sgro's children attend South Fayette, so he can be found at various district events.

“I never want to be unavailable to the kids. It's just that important,” Sgro said.

He was elected president of the Pennsylvania Association of School Resource Officers. The state group is in its early years but has 147 members. Sgro hopes the association can schedule its first conference next year.

The vice president of the state association is Bill Oslick, a member of the Collier Police Department and the SRO at Chartiers Valley High School and Middle School. When Sgro applied to be the SRO in South Fayette, he spoke to Oslick about the job duties.

At the national conference this month, about 800 school resource officers participated in training and networking sessions.

“The sentiment is the same. We love what we do and are passionate about what we do,” Sgro said.

Jim Spezialetti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5805 or jspezialetti@tribweb.com.

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