SRO moved in Eagleton investigation


By Matthew Stewart

In response to a Blount County Schools’ investigation, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office has removed Eagleton Elementary School’s school resource officer.

“Based on the internal investigation being conducted by Blount County Schools Director Rob Britt, it was in everyone’s best interest to move School Resource Officer Rick Baker from Eagleton Elementary,” said Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong, in a prepared statement.

Eagleton Elementary School Principal Debra Garren, who has been the school’s principal for 2½ years, has been placed on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of an investigation. System-level administrators spent Wednesday looking into complaints and allegations concerning the building-level administrator.

The allegations concern someone who has worked at the school, said Director of Schools Rob Britt, in a Wednesday afternoon interview with The Daily Times. He advised that they concern “other personnel but not a school employee.”

The school director said he was unable to further discuss the investigation due to its ongoing nature.

Assistant Principal Suzanne Graves will serve as interim principal throughout the investigation.

Graves is currently assistant principal at Carpenter Elementary and Eagleton Elementary schools, Britt said. She works three days at Carpenters Elementary School and two days at Eagleton Elementary School.

Rick Baker

Baker, 48, has served about 13 years at the Blount County Sheriff’s Office. He was hired as a patrolman on Jan. 17, 2000.

The officer served in the Patrol Unit until July 28, 2003, when he was transferred to the Training Unit. He was promoted to sergeant on Oct. 1, 2004.

Baker was promoted to the Training Unit’s acting lieutenant on Jan. 1, 2008. He was reassigned to the BCSO SRO Division on Dec. 5, 2011.

The officer holds no supervisory authority in this capacity, with Lt. Patrick England overseeing the division.

Baker’s personnel file contains numerous appreciation letters from the FBI, local law enforcement agencies and nonprofits. His file includes a commendation letter for saving an infant’s life on Oct. 25, 2005.

Baker was traveling north on Sevierville Road when he approached Hickory Corner and heard a radio dispatch that an infant wasn’t breathing, according to the letter. The officer, who was headed to a Knoxville training assignment, was the first responder on the scene and observed an unconscious child with a closed airway, stemming from a seizure.

Baker opened the child’s airway and performed a sternum rub that caused the baby to start breathing, the letter said. He continued this treatment until Rural/Metro Ambulance Service arrived on scene.

Emergency medical technicians advised that Baker’s actions saved the child’s life, the letter said.

Baker also received a commendation for his role in a Feb. 11, 2003, lockdown at William Blount High School. Officers were able to secure the campus and locate a weapon.

Baker, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Lee University, previously served in East Tennessee churches. He performed mission work for a Chattanooga church from 1984-90 and pastored John Sevier Church Of God in Knoxville from 1990-96.

Baker was also a Roane County Sheriff’s Office chaplain and patrolman from 1995-99. He is married.

Debra Garren

Garren, 41, has worked 11 years in Blount County Schools. She taught from 2001-08 at Fairview Elementary School before being promoted to Montvale Elementary School’s literacy leader.

Garren served one year in that position before being promoted to Carpenters Elementary’s and Eagleton Elementary’s assistant principal in July 2009. She then replaced Eagleton Elementary School Principal Jerry Bailey, who retired.

Garren previously worked in Monroe County Schools. She taught from 1995-2001 at Vonore Elementary School.

Garren holds a bachelor’s from Tennessee Technological University and a master’s from Lincoln Memorial University.

She is married to Loudon County Assistant Director of Schools Mike Garren.