For 20 years, Brad Fornash worked for the Conway Police Department trading roles as a detective and then a hostage crisis negotiator.
In July, Fornash retired from the force, turning in his shield for his new role as St. Joseph School’s new school resource officer.
Not only the new SRO, but the state’s first in the Catholic Diocese … a weight and responsibility he doesn’t often think about.
“I just do what I’m supposed to do and what needs to be done,” Fornash told the Log Cabin Democrat on Friday.
Despite the 180 in responsibilities, the retired officer said he hasn’t faced a lot of challenges in the new role.
“It wasn’t bad,” Fornash said, referencing the transition. “I was ready to do something different.”
He said it’s not a “slower pace,” necessarily, but just a difference pace; jumping from campus to campus throughout the day, he said he averages about seven miles a day.
“It’s less stressful,” Fornash said. “It’s more enjoyable, talking to the kids and getting to know [them].”
Since he’s the first, he said, he has gotten some calls from other private schools across Arkansas who are looking into this; Conway Christian also brought on an SRO at the beginning of the year too.
Fornash said at first, since the students weren’t used to him being there, they were each trying to figure each other out — though he knew most of the younger kids since his son, Aidan, goes to school there.
“I think they know now that I’m here for them,” he said. “I think the high school kids have kind of figured out that I’m not the policeman that goes out and arrests people anymore.”
Overall, the students, the parents, the staff, everyone, Fornash said, has responded well to the new addition.
He said the seventh grade is working on “what they’re thankful for,” in class and a teacher told him he made the list, right after God and food, a good feeling.
“It’s hard to walk away after 20 years of doing something but like I said, I was kind of at the point to where I was ready to explore my options,” Fornash said. “I haven’t felt uncomfortable or anything, really it’s been a smooth transition.”
He said the one major improvement is his schedule; he’s off when his son Aidan is off, including holidays, but also just day-to-day.
“I don’t miss my phone ringing at all hours of the night,” Fornash said.
On Friday when the LCD met with Fornash, he was in the cafeteria during lunch. When posing for a photo, student after student rushed out of their seats to jump in and stand beside him.
He said they seem happy to have him around but now he’s not just Aidan’s dad … he’s there for them too.
“That’s my biggest responsibility, I feel like,” Fornash said. “Almost 500 kids here just trying to keep them safe and trying to keep bad things off the campus. It’s not so much what our kids do, they’re good kids, it’s just keeping the outside things out.”
That, he said, has been his favorite part.
“The kids … just getting to know the kids and talking with them,” Fornash said.
The former CPD officer said in his new role, he’s also been able to facilitate a better relationship between the school and the police department, which, he said, is “flawless now.”
Recently, Fornash said he was able to get the department to come to St. Joseph and run through some drills, walking faculty and students alike through emergency plans and what to do in case of certain scenarios.
He said St. Joseph is better prepared but the kids are now included in that.
“We thought it was important fo the kids to know what was going on,” Fornash said.
Through that, many conversations between him and teachers have also developed.
Fornash, a member of the parish for 22 years, said overall the transition has been a good fit for him.
“It’s been my family for 22 years so why not come work here,” he said. “For me, it’s just been a great fit. It’s kind of where my heart is.”