TAMPA — Lisa Noland might wear the uniform of a sherrif’s deputy as the Resource Officer at Buchanan Middle School, but she’s much more than that.
Like most school resource officers, she does more than look for the bad in the kids. She also scouts out the good and usually can find it. She said her job consists of more than just sending kids to jail. In fact, that doesn’t happen. Instead, depending on the situation, she may be a nurse, a teacher, a mentor ....
And a cop.
She’s been at Buchanan for a year now and has gained the respect and friendship of the student body. She carries a gun and wears a badge, but she has a heart that melts for the students who come to her every day, not to mention the ones she has to see for various reasons.
School safety is near the top of everyone’s priorities in the new millennium, and Noland is aware of that. She operates from an office at the front of Buchanan and can see just about everything going on. When a suspicious person was recently spotted on the Buchanan campus, her pleasant smile went away as she darted out of the office to make sure that things were fine.
She takes her job seriously. School resource officers are much more than just about law enforcement, she said. She wants to get involved in the lives of the kids.
“It’s important to let the kids know that anyone who isn’t allowed on our property isn’t allowed,” Noland said. “We do a lot more than just sit around looking for things to happen. We have a lot of responsibilities and it isn’t always easy so you have to get the trust of the kids.”
Like all other school resource officers, she juggles many plates. Forget about finding her around lunch time. She’s in the cafeteria keeping an eye on the chaos of the lunch room unless the phone goes off and she’s called somewhere else on campus.
There isn’t a lot of structure among middle school kids, so every day is a new adventure. She’s got to be ready for anything.
Traffic in and out of school? She has to be there to make sure the cones are in the right place and the kids are kept out of harm’s way. Noland received a long phone call recently where she was adamant about the need for safety procedures at the Bearss Avenue entrance to the Buchanan campus.
“One of my biggest problems, and it is the same with other deputies, is trying to control the traffic around the school,” Noland said. “With so many kids coming and going, it is important that the drivers — and there are a lot of them during rush hours — know they have to look out for these kids.”
Noland joined Buchanan last year. She knows that being a deputy can be intimidating to some kids, but she wants to be their friend, someone they can trust.
“When I first got here they might have been a little bit scared of me, but they learned that I can be firm, but also a friend,” she said. “We’re not as mean as you think.”
She taught orientation to all classes and speaks to them often. She responds to anonymous tips and tries to encourage kids to come to her with any problems without fear of reprisal from other students.
Drugs are a big issue, she said, and she responds to at least one tip almost every week.
She’s found brass knuckles and knives — which transforms her from the nice, friendly deputy into somebody more authoritative.
In the case of bullying, it is suggested that kids go to an assistant principal or guidance counselors first. Then the report goes to Noland, who often gets to the bottom of the problem.
Noland knows she’s making a difference at Buchanan.
“Kids always make a difference,” Noland said. “They are the future and it’s my job to make sure their future is bright.”