After 18 years patrolling school corridors, responding to potential threats and watching hours of security footage, Bruce Watson's job description is changing, but his mission isn't.
Watson, a former school resource officer for McCracken County Schools, took over Monday as the program's supervisor. Former supervisor Larry Zacheretti retired.
"During Larry's tenure, I feel like this program was one of the best in the state," Watson said.
The program was instituted after the December 1997 shootings at Heath High School.
McCracken's school resource officers report directly to the school system, and aren't contracted with a law enforcement agency.
The majority of the 10-member staff -- including Watson -- have retired from the Paducah Police Department or the McCracken County Sheriff's Department.
Before Watson joined the schools' team, he worked as a supervisor on the police force. He said that experience, combined with his time as a resource officer, should give him valuable perspective as he works to keep the program moving forward.
"We've got top-notch people and we've got a really good program," he said, adding he expects any changes he institutes to be fairly incremental -- evaluating vehicle traffic patterns, for instance.
He said he learned plenty from Zacheretti, particularly his humility and laid-back character.
"He was in charge, but he wasn't one of those guys walking around telling you he was in charge."
Zacheretti said last week that he's confident in Watson's ability. "I think Bruce will do an excellent job," he said.
"The new superintendent is very supporting."
Zacheretti, who supervised the team for 13 years, laughed while contemplating how he can't stay away despite his retirement.
"I thought I'd be relieved and never look back, but I've talked to Bruce every day since.
"If I needed anything done in the schools, he was my man," Zacheretti said, calling Watson "the best."
"I think McCracken County is in good hands."
Watson and Zacheretti both referenced the recently-passed School Safety and Resiliency Act, which mandates a host of school safety-related measures, including the stationing of one officer in every school within a district, as local funding allows.
Watson said McCracken schools occupy 10 different buildings. Four officers are dedicated specifically to the 2,000-plus students at the high school, while the other five officers float between the other schools.
Sometimes, Watson said, the reality of the task and the constant what-ifs and preparations for tragedies like Heath and the more recent Marshall County shootings can weigh heavily on an officer's mind.
"We come to work thinking about it. We spend the whole day thinking about it. We go home at night thinking about it. That's always in the back of your mind," he said.
But he's confident in the dedication and abilities of his team.
"I've worked with every one of them. I know who they are. I know where the rubber meets the road."
Watson said he looks forward to the administrative challenge after so long as an active officer. He said he still looks to Zacheretti for inspiration.
"If I can run this program half as good as he did, we'll be OK," Watson said.