Pike County Schools sets agreement for school resource officer

Published 3:00 am Friday, November 16, 2018

The funding is now in place for Pike County Schools to have a school resource officer.

The Pike County Commission unanimously approved Tuesday a funding agreement with Pike County Schools for the school system to contribute $70,000 toward the funding of a school resource officer.

Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent, said the school had the money to fund the salary and benefits for the school resource officer but needed the commission to assist with some of the ancillary expenses such as training and vehicle maintenance.

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County Administrator McKenzie Wilson said the agreement passed Tuesday only sets up the payment from Pike County Schools, but the commission is still planning to do more in the future with the resource officer.

Bazzell said this is only the first step in an ongoing process to harden the schools.

“We had some one-time money this year, but we hope to get some additional funding from the state going forward to help fund school resource officers,” Bazzell said. “For this year, the county commission will be kicking in some dollars but we are covering salary and benefits. We appreciate the willingness of the commission to work with us.”

Ultimately, Bazzell said the school system needs five resource officers.

“We need one at each school. That’s what we’re working towards; this is a starting point for us,” Bazzell said. “Sheriff (Russell) Thomas and I have talked about it several times over the years, but this has been our first opportunity to get something going. The sheriff’s office has always been good in terms of responses to our schools, but we needed an officer assigned to the school full time. This discussion has been going on for a long time.”

And Bazzell said properly securing the schools goes far beyond hiring school resource officers.

“This is only a small part of what needs to be done,” Bazzell said. “We’re looking for ways to harden the perimeters of our schools. We don’t want them to look like prisons but we do want to try to limit access to the grounds in a way that is not only functional but doesn’t look bad.

“Probably one of the most important things we need to do is put in school-based mental health programs. That is something that is much-needed. We need to look for ways to identify kids who are having trouble and intervene with them before it gets to the point where they do something. We need to harden the perimeters. We need funding at some point to improve the surveillance systems we have in place. It’s going to need to be comprehensive I think for it to make a difference.”