Police officer aims to make difference in Kittery schools

durgin1993 grad to become next school resource officer

August 19, 2014 2:00 AM

KITTERY, Maine — What goes around, comes around for Kittery Police officer and native Jay Durgin, as he prepares to return to Kittery’s schools — this time as school resource officer.

It’s an environment with which Durgin is very familiar. His father, Daniel, is the retired superintendent of schools for School Administrative Unit 50 for the towns of Greenland, Newington, New Castle and Rye in New Hampshire. His sister, Jane Durgin, is Kittery schools’ director of special education, and his sister, Julie Dow, is on the Kittery School Committee.

“Absolutely, they were an influence on me taking the job. I think it makes me more open, more receptive” to the school environment, he said.

Durgin said in his 18 years as a police officer, 15 in Kittery, he’s never looked forward more to a new assignment.

“It’s something new, It’s going to be a challenge, and something I can do for my hometown,” he said.

Durgin will be the schools’ second resource officer. Officer Rachel Horning, who served in the schools last year, is going back to patrol work.

Durgin said his primary job will be to provide security in the schools. He has taken basic and advanced training this summer through the National Association of School Resource Officers to more fully prepare him for the job.

“No threat can be taken too lightly. Everything has to be investigated,” he said.

Kittery had its share of incidents in the last school year, with one student having a BB gun which looked like a handgun in his car. Another time, a student was expelled for threatening to kill students and teachers on the last day of school in June.

“That’s the world we live in,” he said. “I find it really sad.”

He admits he’s had to improve his social media skills, as he looks to find out what kids are thinking and if there are any threats.

“Social media is huge, particularly harassment over the Internet and by texting. Technology has changed how kids grow up,” he said.

He made clear that while he is “there for the students,” he also has a job to do. He will be in uniform every day, and he said he wants students to know they can talk to him, he also wants them to understand his job.

“Don’t break the law. That’s my message,” he said. “I am a police officer for the town of Kittery and I am there to enforce the law, not the rules of the school. Come here to learn, and let teachers teach.”

Durgin, who is currently the department’s K-9 officer, will continue that role as well. Emma is a drug detection dog, not a tracking dog. Her kennel will be in Durgin’s office at Traip Academy, where he expects to spend a fair amount of his time.

He said school administrators realize he may be called out to other area towns from time to time, but he said he does not anticipate it being a significant disruption. And there are benefits in having Emma at the school.

“Are you going to try to bring narcotics to school with a K-9 officer there? I don’t think so. She will be a deterrent,” he said.

The 1993 Traip graduate said he hasn’t been out of high school so long that he doesn’t remember what it was like. Plus, many of his classmates now have children in the school system, and he knows them and many other residents.

“I think parents will be comfortable coming to me. I hope kids will be,” he said. “I’m extremely excited about this job. It’s a chance to help out my town, and there’s no doubt you can make a difference.”