Ulster BOCES, which partners with the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office to place a School Resource Officer (SRO) within its schools, welcomed Deputy Justin Watson to the school safety team this September.
“Deputy Watson plays an integral part in helping us to maintain a safe and secure learning environment, which is fundamental to student learning and success,” said District Superintendent Dr. Charles V. Khoury.
Among the SRO’s duties, Dr. Khoury noted, are helping to defuse and mediate conflicts; sharing information on topics related to drugs, alcohol, addiction, and school safety; educating students about intimidation and harassment; and identifying students who are positive role models who could be trained as peer mediators. “Deputy Watson will also be assisting staff and students with the student government,” Dr. Khoury added.
Although Deputy Watson’s office is located at the Ulster BOCES Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning (CITL) at Port Ewen, he regularly visits other Ulster BOCES campuses, including the Career & Technical Center in Port Ewen, the CITL at Mt. Marion in Saugerties, and the CITL at Anna Devine in Rifton.
“The way I look at it, I want to be a positive, visible presence,” Deputy Watson said. “I don’t want to just show up when negative situations occur. I need to build a rapport with the staff and students.” His favorite part of his job, he said, is interacting with students. “They may not always say it or express it, but I, and the other professionals at Ulster BOCES, do play a big part in students’ lives,” he remarked.
It’s important, Deputy Watson stressed, for students to know that they can trust him and that they are safe at school. They are welcome to come to him for advice, information, or even a pick-up game of basketball. “Even though I am fairly new to this building, I already have kids who come to me and are expecting to see me every morning,” he noted.
Deputy Watson regularly conducts “walk-throughs” at Ulster BOCES schools, stopping to talk to administrators, staff, and students about any concerns they may have. Recently, he helped teach a class on the principles of law for older students, using a curriculum developed by the classroom teacher.
Younger students, who on occasion are invited to sit in his patrol car, are thrilled when he turns on the vehicle’s flashing lights. During lunchtime and gym classes, he enthusiastically participates in the students’ games.
A graduate of Kingston High School and SUNY Delhi, Deputy Watson has many years of experience working with young people and his community. “I worked at a children’s home in Kingston, I was a program director at Ulster County Boys & Girls Club in Saugerties, and I was a summer camp counselor for Ulster County youth,” he said. “I have also participated in many community and afterschool events involving children.” Before the start of the current school year, for example, Deputy Watson organized a back-to-school drive with assistance from the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office that provided book bags, notebooks, calculators, and other school supplies to more than 150 families throughout Ulster County.
Prior to coming to Ulster BOCES, Deputy Watson attended a School Resource Officer training school run by the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office. He will continue to attend other trainings during the school year and during school breaks.
During his free time, Deputy Watson enjoys coaching local youth in basketball and flag football. “I just try to play a part in my community and try to help out as much as I can with children,” he said. “You’ve got to love this job to do it,” he said, “and I do love it.”