NORTH FORSYTH -- Though he hasn’t yet stepped into his official role, Ron Freeman is already serving Forsyth County residents — or their children, at least.
Freeman, the only candidate on the Nov. 8 ballot for Forsyth County sheriff, participated in Forsyth County Schools’ Principal for a Day program Wednesday, touring Silver City Elementary and spending the day with students, teachers and administrators.
He worked with the school’s principal, Paige Andrews, and vice principal Vicki Sipsy to get an idea of what they do on a daily basis.
He also met and read to students and served on bus duty.
This is the fifth year of the program, which is coordinated in partnership with the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce to bring community and business members into the school system to show them the many roles a principal plays.
“Having taught in adult education at the collegiate level, I am absolutely amazed at the level of innovation that we’re teaching our elementary students at,” Freeman said. “I’m especially impressed with what we’re doing at [Silver City.] The level of engagement teachers have with kids — you can’t fake that. Seeing how much they care and how involved they are, it makes you feel good about living here.”
He said he appreciated the chance to fully engage in the schools.
“This is an opportunity for me, as principal for a day at one of our elementary schools, to actually see what we’re doing day to day,” he said. “I sat in a focus group last week with about 10 elementary principals as well as our superintendent and we talked exactly about how do we maximize the value for our school resource officers [SROs] to have a maximum impact on our elementary school kids?
“It was very clear from that focus group that they’re looking for mentoring, they’re looking for role models — officers that can be superheroes to these kids.”
Freeman said he wants to add SROs into the elementary schools — not to police the schools, but to give younger children positive connections with law enforcement. Currently, SROs split time between middle and elementary schools.
“Security is always a given,” he said. “But we’ve got to go beyond that. We’ve got to invest in our community; we still live in a place that values our kids, we value our community, we value our upbringing and so your sheriff’s office has to play a part in that.
“We know by a time [a child] is in high school, they’re more character-set and even by middle school it’s very entrenched. If we don’t get to that life skill building, we don’t get to the mentoring and we don’t get to that from a young age and [follow] them all the way through, we’re missing. And if we miss that opportunity or we try too late, then we’ve already lost some kids.
“If we have the ability to reduce the drug use here, reduce the potential for a child to eventually drop out of school or eventually commit a crime, not only are we saving a kid, but it has a tremendous impact down the road on our entire community and state from a financial impact [standpoint,] though that’s secondary,” he added. “It comes back to what’s right for our kids and what’s right for our community.”
Freeman said he will work with the BOE in upcoming months to formulate an exact plan of where deputies will be placed.
Though he said it might be a utopian idea to “save” every at-risk child, he said he is willing to try.