COLUMBIA CITY — It’s official. Town Marshal Chad Fulkerson is the School Resource Officer (SRO) at Smith-Green Community Schools.
The Churubusco Town Council made the official decision recently to contribute funds to have Fulkerson at the school for four days out of five.
Fulkerson took training for the SRO duties at SGCS during the summer and has been at the school for three days out of five since August.
Matt Widenhoefer, assistant principal at Churubusco Junior Senior High School, and Shellie Miller, principal at Churubusco Elementary School, told the council they have raised $7,200 to have Fulkerson at the school for three days per week.
The duo requested funds from the council for additional days at the school.
Frank Kessler, president of the council, explained the town couldn’t afford to have Fulkerson at the school five days per week.
“I don’t believe the town can support, both time wise and financially, for Chad to be at the school for five days. That would completely pull him off his town duties. But that being said, we know the SRO program is important and beneficial for all involved. The council would like to help. We want to match the funds so you can have him there,” said Kessler.
“I appreciate you using the word ‘proactive.’ It just makes sense to do this in our community,” said Widenhoefer.
Kessler questioned if there are enough police officers to cover Chad’s hours.
“My guys have known about this and are biting at the bit to take on more hours. We have five police officers who are willing to help,” said Fulkerson.
Those police officers are Mike Engle, Tony Helfrich, Mel Crepser, Paul Rennaker and Garry Jones.
“This community comes first and we know that. Our staff is so thankful for Chad to be at our school. We really want to start the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program soon,” said Miller.
Widenhoefer pointed out that Churubusco business owners are partnering with the SRO program.
“ Rob Marr of C&A Tool and Dick Littlefield of McDonalds are more than happy with our program and have partnered with us,” said Widenhoefer.
Pepple requested the duo to report back with the council at the end of the school year.
“We could come back each week if you want us to. We already know that last year at this time the truancy rates had been high. This year it’s been nothing but positive news,” said Widenhoefer.
Miller explained how tricky visits are for truancy issues.
“It sometimes is hard to find a child who has been missing from school. We have to go to the Department of Child Services. When we take Chad it expedites the help we receive from them,” said Miller.
Both principals invited all of the council members to visit the school and see SRO Fulkerson in action.
Wayne Yager, Churubusco resident and former history teacher at the school, questioned what a SRO is.
Fulkerson explained that he is in attendance at the school during lunch hours and presents different police subjects to various classes. He sometimes walks the halls with a child who just needs a break from the classroom and is always there to talk or listen to a child in need.
“When you see a child who talks about their dad hitting their mom and is hiding underneath the kitchen sink for safety that is when Chad is most helpful. He can then go talk to that child. Chad’s going to get that call at 10 p.m. anyway and have to go to his house. When he sees Chad at his house, it is not so scary. It’s a proactive approach to intervene with that family. We are here to help nurture and protect that child,” said Widenhoefer.