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Getting to Know the School Resource Officers

School Resource Officers (SROs) – St. Paul Police Department officers who work in our high schools – have been a part of SPPS for nearly 30 years. Their role in our schools have evolved and continue to change to meet the needs of today’s students and schools. The District renewed its contract with the police department last month after seeking and receiving feedback from stakeholders. Meet the team of committed SROs who work with our schools and community.

 Cortez Hull  
Cortez Hull - Highland
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

I have worked for the St. Paul Police Department for 15 years.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
Throughout my personal life and throughout my police career, I have always been involved in youth outreach, coaching, training and mentoring. I care about kids! I felt that in the schools, I would be able to make a positive difference in some of the young men’s and women's lives.


What’s the best part of your job?
The friendships you develop with the students, staff and parents. It’s when students, teachers and parents get that you are a person (who works as an officer) who really cares about people. It’s when the students care about you, because you have cared for them. It’s when you get a high five from teachers because you've just kicked their butts in the weight room. It’s when you are walking down the hall and students say “hi” to you.


What’s the biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is helping people understand what it is that an SRO does at a school. While I am all about enforcing laws and making sure people feel safe, I am not JUST the cop at the school. I am sometimes a counselor, teacher, therapist, coach, mentor, social worker, father figure and personal trainer. It is has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. I am a part of that village.


What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I am usually spending time with my family. Other than that, I love to learn about ways to help myself and others improve their health, fitness, results and life. Call me a nerd, but I enjoy it. 
 Toy Vixayvong  
Toy Vixayvong - Como
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

I have been a police officer for 16 years.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
I always find it rewarding to be able to work with students and be a mentor. I get to know students on a personal basis -- who the students really are and their background.


What’s the best part of your job?
Being able to interact with students as well as staff members and provide the school with a sense of security.


What’s the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge at Como High is that some students are homeless. They live with different friends that are able to take them in. They struggle financially out in the community. Finding ways to help these students is a struggle.


What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I like to spend time with my kids doing family things or going to their sporting events.
 
Tong Yang  
Tong Yang - Johnson
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

I've been a police officer for nine years and School Resource Officer for five years.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
I am a product of Saint Paul Public Schools, and want to reflect the kids and community I grew up in.


What’s the best part of your job?
Working to bridge the gap between police and community.


What’s the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge being a police officer, and a School Resource Officer, is dealing with the public and political misconceptions of what we do.


What do you like to do when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my family.
 
 
Cort Baumgart  
 
 
Cort Baumgart - Humboldt
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

I have been with St. Paul for 15 years. Humboldt since May.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
I wanted to try something different. Working with youth. School is a lot different then when I was in school, so I was looking for a different experience.


What’s the best part of your job?
Working with kids and staff at Humboldt.


What’s the biggest challenge?
Working with kids. As an adult it’s always a challenge to find new ways to get through to kids and get their attention.


What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy anything outside. Mowing the grass, cutting down a tree, going to the pool, anything outside is relaxing for me. 
 
Photo of Washington Technology SRO Annie Baumgart.  
Annie Baumgart - Washington
How long have you worked as a police officer in Saint Paul?
I have been with Saint Paul since 2001.
 

Why did you want to be an SRO?
I was ready for a change from working patrol and decided that schools would be a good option for me. I have always enjoyed working with kids and spent many years as an explorer advisor. I think connecting with the youth is very important on many levels and decided that being a school resource officer would be a great way to accomplish this.
 

What’s the best part of your job?
I really enjoy the interactions I have on a daily basis with the kids and the staff in the school. I enjoy when the kids stop by my office to say hello or stop me in the halls to tell me about their weekend.

I am in my second year of a seventh grade Girls Empowerment Group and  the connections I have made through this are amazing.  The girls visit me on a daily basis and I have girls asking to join the group often. 

What’s the biggest challenge?
Helping people understand that our job isn’t getting kids in trouble. We are in the schools to enforce laws, but we are also here as a mentor, teacher and friend.
 

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy spending time with my family.

 
Mark McGinn
 

 

Mark McGinn - Central
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

I have been a St. Paul Police Officer for 10 years. I'm starting my fourth year as an SRO.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
I wanted a role where I could be part of deterring students from jail and keeping a safe learning environment.

What’s the best part of your job?
Seeing students get through tough obstacles in their life and succeed. Most of the students we have interaction with are in some type of crisis.

What’s the biggest challenge?
It can be difficult speaking with some students or staff who have a negative assumption of your role before any personal interaction.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Spending time with my wife and kids.
 
Mike Tharalson
 

 

Mike Tharalson - Harding
How long have you worked as a police officer in St. Paul?

Saint Paul Police Officer for 23 years. I’ve been Harding’s SRO for the last 10 years.

Why did you want to be an SRO?
To have the opportunity to work with youth and be a positive contact for them. To be in the hallways and interacting with kids. To be a positive influence on kids. Building relationships with kids. If they can have a positive interaction with me, they’ll likely interact with police differently when they are in the community.

What’s the best part of your job?
Interacting with students and staff. Being here and available, interacting with kids and being a positive impact and being here when they want to come in to talk.

What’s the biggest challenge?
Trying to dispel the beliefs that many staff and student have about what I do. There is a lot of talk about whether police should be in school buildings or not, and I think there is a lot of misunderstanding. I don’t think people understand all of the positive interactions we have with students on a daily basis.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Spend time with my children.