By GRAYSON LEE MAXWELL
Rutherford County Schools
After 23 years in law enforcement, safety remains Patty Oeser’s top priority.
Oeser is the new Safe Schools Director, taking the reins after the forthcoming departure David Crim, who is retiring after four years in the role.
Working directly with Director of Schools Bill Spurlock and all 50 RCS principals, Oeser’s goal is simple — to maintain safe schools.
She begins her career as Safe Schools Director with experience as an SRO, dispatcher, patrol officer and student advocate. She previously worked with Siegel, Rockvale, Holloway and Oakland schools as a school resource officer.
Oeser is no stranger to hard work.
“I grew up on a dairy farm in Manchester. I had to work,” Oeser said. “Day and night. I got a job when I was 16, and when I got out of high school, I had friends who were in law enforcement. I started out in dispatch. When I transferred to Rutherford County, I had an opportunity. I was a school resource officer for 13 years – I became a sergeant.
How does she plan to make an impact on RCS parents, students, and teachers?
Oeser says, “It’s a team effort.”
“I assist Mr. Spurlock but also (RCS General Counsel) Monika Ridley,” Oeser explained. “She has the legal experience, I have the law enforcement experience, and Mr. Spurlock has the school side of it. So, we all mesh together and work as a team.”
That team mentality extends beyond the office and into the schools. Oeser believes having boots on the ground is important. Physically being in the school building and talking to students, parents and teachers will help her do her job better.
“My big thing,” Oeser said, “is communication. We can’t fix things unless we know. We must look at things in a different way as far as safety of the schools, safety of the kids, and how to handle [safety] situations. If kids don’t want to come to school, there’s a reason why — and let’s find out what it is.”
Of course, schools have changed radically over the past 20 years and Oeser acknowledges those highly advanced devices everyone carries have a major impact on school safety.
“Unfortunately, this day and time, cell phones in schools have created a huge problem. That’s why you get a lot of online bullying.”
Putting communication first and giving teachers and parents resources they need will help Oeser achieve her goal of making a positive impact on Rutherford County students, she said.
“I want something in my hand that I can give you,” she said, “as a family member of someone in a crisis. Here are your resources. I want to do that with our school system, with the counselors, teachers and staff.”
When students don’t feel safe at school — they aren’t learning. Patty understands students may feel uncomfortable talking to adults about online bullying or other safety concerns.
“I want the kids to know, whether it’s in-person or through the county website, if they have a concern — they can report things. It’s a team effort,” she repeated. “We can’t fix things unless we know.”
Rutherford County Schools uses STOPit, an online and app-based system, to empower students, parents, teachers and others to anonymously report anything of concern to school officials — from cyber-bullying to threats of violence or self-harm.
To access STOPit and make a report:
- Web-based reporting via the STOPit website for each campus is available now. To make a report, visit school’s webpage and follow the link for STOPit.
- Rutherford County Schools has an app version of STOPit. Users can download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play and use the corresponding access code for the Rutherford County Schools. Information and phone app access codes can be obtained from your school.