Liberty SRO honored as best in the state

October 3, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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By Greg Farrar Deputy Dave Montalvo, Liberty resource officer, is greeted warmly by a visiting graduate near the grandstand student section as he patrols a Sept. 12 football game.

By Greg Farrar
Deputy Dave Montalvo, Liberty resource officer, is greeted warmly by a visiting graduate near the grandstand student section as he patrols a Sept. 12 football game.

Deputy Dave Montalvo has had his fair share of assignments in a 27-year career with the King County Sheriff’s Office.

He spent time on the SWAT team; he taught new recruits as a master police officer; he served on motorcycle patrol; and he also worked with a traffic enforcement unit.

But he has truly found his home in the south end of the Issaquah School District where, for the past 12 years, Montalvo has served as the school resource officer at Liberty High, Maywood Middle and surrounding elementary schools.

“This is by far, in my opinion, the best job that anybody can have, because you get to work with the kids and make a difference,” he said.

Students, staff and parents have for years praised Montalvo’s warm and likable demeanor, but now the rest of the state knows how special he is, after the Washington School Safety Organization named him the state’s 2013-2014 School Security Officer of the Year.

It’s not a surprise he won. It’s more of a surprise that he hadn’t yet won, said former Liberty administrator Ed Marcoe, who led the effort to get Montalvo considered for the award. He gathered nomination forms and passed them out to Liberty staff, parents and students.

“We had, I’m going to say, close to 75 nomination forms supporting him,” Marcoe said.

Montalvo’s day consists of walking — a lot of walking. He estimates he walks the Liberty campus 15-20 times a day, making sure everything is safe and secure. He also helps teach Fourth Amendment rights in the school’s civics class and demonstrates the dangers of drinking and driving in the driver’s education class.

He investigates student thefts of phones and personal items, makes sure kids aren’t speeding on the arterials or parking illegally, and helps with discipline issues when needed.

Montalvo is responsible for most of the south end of the district, so he also makes time to visit Maywood Middle School and Newcastle, Apollo, Briarwood and Maple Hills elementary schools, where he interacts with students and monitors crosswalks.

“I try to get over there a couple times a day as well, to make sure they know I’m watching out for them as well,” he said.

Liberty visitors will often see his King County Sheriff Office car parked in front of the school, standing as a comfortable symbol of the school’s security.

Montalvo is much more than a school resource officer. He’s a teacher, a mentor, a father figure and a support system for every student he protects.

“He just has that charisma with the kids,” Marcoe said. “Kids feel at ease with him and can talk to him. That’s what you want in an SRO. You want that protection, but you also want to be able to go to somebody and tell them anything.”

He has a strong open-door policy, so it’s not rare to see a consistent parade of students, both current and former, coming to him for guidance or just stopping to say hi.

Montalvo’s connection to Liberty is unlike any Principal Josh Almy has seen in his 20-year education career, he said.

“He takes such a special interest in the success and safety of the kids and community, it really is remarkable,” Almy said. “He not only does his job to the fullest, but spends much of his personal time attending events and taking an interest in the betterment of our school. He knows parents, students and staff by name, and will always go the extra mile for any Patriot that could benefit from his assistance.”

Montalvo, who makes his home in Maple Valley, admits that he now bleeds silver, green and blue, and praises Liberty as “the gem of the district.” Fans will often see him on the sidelines cheering on the Liberty student athletes or at graduation celebrating the seniors.

His favorite part of the job is interacting with kids. He gets a chance to see them literally grow up in front of his eyes, from troublesome freshmen making rash choices to, hopefully, more mature seniors.

“It’s fun when they look back at it and say, ‘I made some dumb choices when I was younger,’ and I go, ‘We all do. We were all young,’” Montalvo said.

The plaque he received for the state honor now sits proudly in his Liberty office, though he spends little time there. Montalvo credits the award to the students and staff, saying the well-behaved Patriots’ student body simply makes him look good.

“In our line of business, a lot of times we don’t see the best of people,” Montalvo said. “But if you can turn one of those troublemakers around and make a difference, it’s amazing how that feels.”

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