PEABODY — Superintendent Josh Vadala is pleased to share that a Peabody business donated 30 copies of a children’s book to Peabody Public Schools in recognition of School Resource Officer Eric Ricci’s ongoing efforts to read to students.
Adhesive Packaging Specialties, of Peabody, donated 30 copies of “Officer Buckle and Gloria” to schools. Officer Ricci reads to students with his K-9 partner Ella, who serves as a comfort dog.
“Officer Buckle and Gloria,” by Peggy Rathmann, is a Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book about a police officer — Officer Buckle — who is boring when teaching students about safety, until he takes his new police dog — Gloria — to school with him. Officer Buckle is initially upset to learn that Gloria stole the show, but they become a team after a major emergency makes it clear that they need each other. The book highlights the importance of teamwork, while subtly sharing safety tips from Officer Buckle.
Officer Ricci became a School Resource Officer five years ago, working for three years at Peabody Veterans Memorial High School before switching to working in the community’s elementary schools. Officer Ricci, a cancer survivor, named his K-9 partner Ella after a Peabody Public Schools student who lost her life to the disease.
“There is nothing like walking down the hallways and hearing kids yell, ‘Ella’s here,’ Officer Ricci said. “It’s very rewarding to have kids not be afraid of me in uniform.”
Officer Ricci teaches students about safety, and to think about safety, while also encouraging all students to understand the importance of kindness.
“My biggest thing I speak about at every school is kindness,” Ricci said. “At the end of every talk with the kids in the classroom I talk about kindness and why it’s so important in life. I always tell kids: If you’re having a bad day don’t act out; speak to a teacher or a trusted adult in the school. A two- or three-minute talk can keep you out of trouble for the day. It’s OK to talk out your problems.”
Ricci also goes out of his way to attend school events, such as fifth grade basketball games. He also encourages fellow officers to spend more time in schools, often convincing colleagues to each lunch with students to help build relationships.
It’s not just the children who have fun. Officer Ricci has been with the Peabody Police Department for 27 years, working in patrol, on the drug unit, in the detective unit, and as a crisis negotiator for the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council. He already qualifies for full retirement, but has delayed his plans for retirement for another five years just because he enjoys working with students and Ella so much.
“This job makes it fun to come to work everyday,” Officer Ricci said. “I love working with the youths of Peabody and building relationships that will last far beyond their school years. I love working in the elementary schools just talking to kids, reading to different classes and just popping in to talk about their day.”
Adhesive Packaging Specialties, a division of HB Fuller Corp., places a high priority on volunteerism and community. Human Resources Manager Dawn Williams said she was excited to offer to help when she heard schools were looking for books to distribute to teachers, Officer Ricci, and Ella.
Jill Houlden, a 3rd-grade teacher at McCarthy Elementary who is active in the school and district as a whole, often seeking out partnerships to benefit her students, helped organize the book donation.
“I remember when Ella was sick and sadly passed away, and I love that Ella the comfort dog is named in her honor,” said Williams. “I hope this book, which puts safety into the perspective of a young child, gives the students a lot of enjoyment and helps them feel that they are in a safe environment.”
“Officer Ricci is a great example of Community Policing and does wonderful things to build relationships with students and their families. He often brings Ella into schools to support students, and I think he does a commendable job of building upon the already strong, positive partnership between schools and police,” said Superintendent Vadala. “I am grateful to Officer Ricci for his caring and compassionate work, and to Adhesive Packaging Specialties and its employees for their generosity. These are just two examples of the wonderful community that we are all a part of in Peabody.”