PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Retiring Nahant Police officer Armand Conti is mobbed by Johnson Elementary School students.
By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
NAHANT — Officer Armand Conti of the Nahant Police Department thought he was responding to the Johnson Elementary School for a routine drill, but the children had other plans.
Teachers and the Johnson School Parent Teacher Organization put together a surprise gathering for Conti, who has served the department and the school as the student resource officer, for more than 25 years. As he pulled into the school parking lot, the students gathered outside with handmade signs, balloons, and a commemorative plaque for a heartfelt send off.
“We feel so safe and protected because of him,” said Marsha White, a second grade teacher. “We wanted to do something small for him. He’s trying to sneak out, but we won’t let him.”
Each of White’s students wrote Conti a letter, offering advice on what to do once he is retired.
“I like him,” said fourth-grader Collette Heil. “He cares a lot about people being safe.”
The students lined up to present him with cards and drawings and offer him a handshake or a hug.
“He was a very good officer protecting our school,” said Daniela DiCostanzo, a fifth grader. “I’ve known him for a long time. He’s really nice to everybody. I’m going to miss him when he leaves.”
Police Chief Robert Dwyer said he and Conti started as reserve officers around the same time in 1990. Dwyer said Conti serves as the liaison for the school and the Northeastern University Marine Science Center. He is also the emergency 911 supervisor and 911 training officer.
Dwyer said Conti plans to stay with the department as a reserve for a few more years.
“He’s a great community policing officer for the town,” Dwyer said. “You’ve got to have the right person in this environment. He has grabbed onto it and has done an outstanding job. The kids love him.”
Conti said he was surprised and overwhelmed by the students.
“It’s gratifying to see this,” he said. “It makes me feel like I did something right. It’s a small system, but because it’s a small system it becomes more personal. You get to know so many people. You just want to make sure the kids have a chance to grow up and develop in a safe environment.”
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.