HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Holland Public Schools has named a retired Holland police officer as the new director of student safety and security.

Joe Soto has served as Holland High School’s resource officer since 2017. He retired from the Holland Department of Public Safety after 27 years of service. The district was awarded state grant money that helped it create Soto’s new position and add additional school monitors to enhance student and school security.

“I think school districts are really realizing that there is a need to have someone that can specialize in that type of field or use their experience, their training, their knowledge to try to enhance or lead the safety and security for the districts,” Soto said.

The district’s Board of Education approved Soto’s appointment last week. He will review existing safety policies and procedures and present future improvement recommendations to the board.

Holland’s Superintendent Nick Cassidy said Soto’s appointment was an easy decision.

“He already knows HPS families and is invested in our community. He has demonstrated a shared commitment to providing safe and secure learning environments for all students and staff,” Cassidy said.

School districts across the nation continue to grapple with school safety concerns. Grand Rapids Public Schools banned backpacks at the end of the last academic year after several students brought weapons to campus. While GRPS opted to hire a third-party business to review the district’s policies, Holland opted to create the position in-house.

“This is an educational setting,” Soto said. “We’re educating them not only for academics but also real life.”