Seventh- and eighth-graders in the Cotati-Rohnert Park School District will have a big reputation to live up to when they return to school Aug. 26.
Following the closure of Mountain Shadows Middle School on Friday, all of the district's seventh- and eighth-graders will attend what was formerly called Creekside Middle School. It will open the school year as Lawrence E. Jones Middle School.
Known as "Officer Friendly," Jones was a Rohnert Park public safety officer for 27 years -- 18 of which he spent as a now-legendary school resource officer.
Jones died in 2009 of kidney cancer.
"He was a very important, major figure in the community for Rohnert Park," said district superintendent Barbara Vrankovich.
During his career, Jones was named policeman of the year, given the outstanding service award for the state Juvenile Officers Association, received the J. Edgar Hoover gold medal award and was named Rohnert Park citizen of the year.
"His smile is one of those things that lights up a room," Jones's daughter, Tracy Jones Jackson of Sacramento said. "He had a way of being able to calm the chaos. It's one of those talents -- it's a God-given talent."
Julie Cattaneo, an alumna of Rohnert Park schools who now owns a restaurant in Santa Rosa where a photo of Officer Friendly hangs above the bar, supports the change.
"I grew up with him. He was such a great guy and helped out so many people," she said.
But the district's decision to change the name from Creekside -- and spend money to do so -- while also grappling with a massive budget deficit has not been without controversy.