[This is the third in a six part series to highlight Bartlesville Public Schools’ School Resource Officers and raise community awareness regarding safety in our schools.]
Officer Terry Woods is one of four school resource officers (“SROs”) assigned to the Bartlesville Public Schools District (the “District”). As a reminder, the District is in the process of adding five SROs over the next ten months to the four SROs already in place. The Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation sat down with Officer Woods to learn more about his role within our schools.
Born in Bartlesville, Officer Woods is a local who, as a child, was heavily involved with livestock and the FFA and loved playing basketball. He graduated from Dewey High School in 2008, and Rogers State University in 2013, with a major in business administration and a minor in psychology. After college, he was hired as a detention officer in the Washington County Jail. In 2016, Woods moved to the position of Sheriff’s Deputy. In 2017, he ran transport (serving as security for the courthouse and transporting inmates).
In 2019, Officer Woods was hired by the Bartlesville Police Department as a patrolman and field training officer. His favorite part of the job was the community police aspect – serving in a proactive, engaged, and positive role in the community, rather than only responding to concerns and crisis calls. Examples of community policing include activities like escorting the football team to the playoffs, serving as a security officer at large events, and leading justice-related education efforts.
With his love of community policing, he welcomed the opportunity to serve as an SRO in the Bartlesville Public Schools. In 2021, Officer Plummer and Corporal Meyer were serving as District SROs. Officer Bullen had just retired. Officer Woods was assigned to replace Bullen. With Plummer, Meyer, and Woods in place, the District transitioned from having officers serving the east and west side schools to having an officer at each level of our schools – Meyer in the elementary schools, Plummer in the middle schools, and Woods at the high school.
Woods views the SRO position as the best form of community policing. SROs have the ability to visit with students, develop positive relationships, and be proactive and preventative. As the officer assigned to Bartlesville High School, each day looks differently for Woods. He purposely varies his locations each day – one day he may start in the high school parking lot, maintaining order as students arrive in the mornings; the next, he may help direct traffic on the west side of the building. At the beginning of the year, he often spends some time in the BHS Commons to deter any conflicts that might arise after the long summer break. He spends the majority of his day making himself available to students and staff for whatever they need. Sometimes, that includes attending home visits with BHS principals (checking on students who have been absent for several days), or defusing conflicts between students.
He walks the halls, so students are aware of his constant presence, and has an open door policy when in his office. Students and staff are encouraged to reach out to Woods with any questions or concerns they have. He has already seen a difference during the start of this school year, after having a year to develop relationships with students and staff. Both staff and students will seek advice on how to handle conflicts, and sometimes seek insight on the legal implications of certain actions. BHS counselors and fellow students will direct students to Officer Woods to discuss issues ranging from bullying and stalking concerns, to the process and impact of emancipating.
Mental health plays a significant role in much of what Officer Woods sees – mental health issues often cause or contribute to many of his calls, and mental health is often negatively impacted by the situations he encounters. Woods is grateful for the partnership the schools have with Grand Lake Mental Health and other mental health agencies. He works closely with the mental health professionals on many calls – evaluating the situation, determining whether the family is already involved and aware of the concerns, and helping place the student in care if experts determine that care is necessary. Officer Woods attributes many of the successful resolutions the schools have had around mental health issues to the strong collaboration between the school administrators, mental health experts, and the SROs. This team of responders works well together, communicates clearly, and understands each other’s roles and the resources they can each provide.
In addition to his daily SRO duties, Woods is responsible for several District-wide programs including Handle with Care, the Explorer Program, and the Youth Academy. For Handle with Care, Officer Woods reviews police reports each week, identifying whether any BPS students have been involved or otherwise impacted, either directly or indirectly, by any activity (domestic violence, a house fire, etc…). If he sees that a BPS student was impacted, he will, without disclosing the issue, mention to that student’s school counselor and/or principal, that they should keep an eye on that student in case the student needs some additional support. Officer Woods has noticed that so much of what he and the other SROs see inside the schools is rooted in situations that developed outside of school. Having an awareness of outside factors and situations, gives the schools valuable insight to manage potential issues that may arise with students.
The Explorer Program is an opportunity for youth, fourteen to twenty-one years old, interested in helping their community or pursuing a career in law enforcement, to get experience with all areas of law enforcement, including the Bartlesville Police Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, and the Oklahoma State Troopers. Youth participants have the opportunity to direct traffic, maintain barricades at parades and community races, shadow officers, and participate in ride alongs. One of Woods’ Explorers, Katie Bain, visited with us, sharing that participating in the program has confirmed her desire to become a police officer.
The Youth Academy is another great opportunity for students. The three-day program Officer Woods coordinates with Officer Coates during the summer is for twelve to eighteen year olds. The officers give them tours of their armored vehicle, run them through a simulated drunk driving course, and perform demonstrations with their K-9 unit.
Officer Woods is eager to have more SROs in the District. He recognizes the value they bring to students and staff – both in terms of their fast response time to crises and the positive relationships they are able to develop within the schools. He highlighted that SROs must be highly trained because of the wide variety of issues they encounter in the schools and the independence they have – SROs are often making decisions about how to respond to situations on their own, determining what resources to call in and what first steps to take.
When Officer Woods is not working in the schools, he enjoys spending time with his wife, two daughters, and extended family, developing the Explorer Program, or catching up on administrative things like policies and program improvements.
The Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation is raising funds to support and sustain the District’s valuable SRO positions. To contribute to this fundraising effort, contact Blair Ellis, BPSF Executive Director at 918-336-8600, ext 3523 or email@example.com, or by visiting bpsfoundation.org/donate