Hope schools safer with SRO

Not even a pandemic could disrupt the plans to retain a school resource officer in Hope’s schools.

Behind strong community support, and careful administrative number crunching, the Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. recently announced it will make good on its promise to fully fund its school resource officer, Deputy Jessica Pendleton, moving forward.

Last year, Flat Rock-Hawcreek Superintendent Shawn Price promised the county commissioners the corporation would pay for 100% of the days that Pendelton was their SRO starting in 2021.

On Monday, in a memorandum of understanding approved by the commissioners, the school corporation agreed to pay Pendleton for 210 work days to provide security and related services at Hauser Jr.-Sr. High School and Hope Elementary.

In addition to all 190 days of the Flat Rock-Hawcreek school year, an additional 20 days for events like extracurricular activities and parent-teacher conferences are covered. Hope schools will also be providing up to 130 gallons of gasoline per month to their SRO.

In 2018, school administrators agreed to pay Pendleton $45,000 annually, which was lower than the $61,530 the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. was paying at the time for each of their SROs. In order to help the Hope area schools, the county council agreed to pay the balance of Pendleton’s salary and benefits for one year.

Last July, Hope-area schools worked together to raise about $60,000 to keep Pendleton on their campuses for 2020-21. Since that amount was less than $2,000 short of what other SROs were making, the funding gap was easily filled, officials said.

Price credited “smart fiscal planning and budgeting” by administrators such as Flat Rock-Hawcreek business manager Jeff Cleland, and an increase in numbers in the student body, for keeping Pendleton.

Bartholomew County residents know just how valuable it is to have an SRO on school campuses. In August of 2020, a man with two loaded handguns was arrested on the campus of Central Middle School in Columbus by SRO Greg Ross.

But the job of an SRO goes far beyond just paroling the schools.

Pendleton has worked in the Hope-area school system for the last three years and has been a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) instructor for four years. She has also received training through the National Association of School Resource Officers.

School officials should be commended for making good on their promise, as they’re signaling school safety is still a top priority.