“I just want the families of the children to know that I take the security of their children as my highest priority,” Deputy Frank Howard, School Resource Officer (SRO) at North Hancock Elementary said.
“As long as I’m in that school, my promise to them is that I will do everything in my power to make sure that those children are safe. That’s my promise.”
Deputy Butch Garst, Senior SRO at Hancock County Schools, introduced Deputy Howard at the school board’s monthly meeting last week, where he was recognized.
“I’ve known Frank for 26 years now, at least,” Garst said. “He has been an SRO before in Daviess County. He’s experienced.
He knows the job. He’s a good pick for this. He’s very qualified.”
Superintendent Robby Asberry also had positive words to say about Deputy Howard. “He is awesome and so is Mark Powers (SRO at SHES).
They are both great additions to our school system.
It’s awesome that our students get to see our law enforcement and know that they’re friends.”
Deputy Howard said that Garst has been instrumental in establishing the SRO program.
“He has done so much on his own time. He’s just as much passionate about it as I am. He has done so much work to get this whole program off the ground.
When he contacted me about this spot that was becoming available, and asked me, I said, ‘Absolutely.’
There was just something always missing when I left the SRO program (at Apollo) and I wanted to rekindle that flame inside of me.
It was the spark that I needed. So, I jumped on that pretty quick.
Hancock County is extremely blessed to have a school board that sees the importance of putting safety for these children and everyone working at the schools, number one. School safety should be number one.
When parents send their children to school, they shouldn’t have to worry. School should be fun and a place to learn – and not worry about some type of threat coming inside the school.
I wanted to go in the school again, because I really wanted to change some children’s lives. As it turns out, they’re actually changing mine.
I come to work with a smile on my face and I go home with a smile on my face. Without children, it would be a dull world.
Once you see this world through a child’s eyes, it’s just unreal.
Every day I get a minimum of 7-8 hugs. I read to the whole first grade class in the cafeteria last Friday (August 26). This is the best position I’ve ever had.”
There will be one SRO assigned to each of the four schools. Deputy Howard said that it is currently being decided who will fill the role of the fourth position.
Deputy Mark Powers is assigned to South Hancock Elementary School and Deputy Howard will be at NHES.
Garst will be very competently handling the HCHS/HCMS campus until the fourth SRO is trained and in place at HCMS.
“I can speak volumes of Mark Powers’ and Butch Garsts’ integrity,” Deputy Howard said. “They would not let anything happen inside or outside the school. They would not.” These three, for now, are dividing up the schools, and they have also been cross-training.
“We want to be cross-trained,” Deputy Howard said. “I want to be familiar with the teachers and the staff.
And, vice versa with Mark, he wants to as well. I think it was paramount to have us cross-train.
They will continue this cross-training until they are all familiar with the layout of each of the schools, as well as the students and staff.
“I might have to respond to the high school, and although I’ve been shown the high school several times, I want to be familiar with it,” he said.
I think it’s good that they want us to visit the schools until we’re familiar with them. Ultimately, where we are all in place is where we are going to be unless something happens.”
He said he tries to stand out in front of the school in the mornings. “I want to be seen. I do numerous walk-throughs in the day inside, and I do several outside the school every day. We all met with Superintendent Asberry and he wanted us to be seen. And, rightfully so. So that the children can see us and the parents can see us. I spend very little time in my office.
The staff needs to see us as well.
This was such an honor and a privilege that not just Sheriff Bozarth who hired me, but the school, and the parents trust me to look after their loved ones.
It’s not just children that are inside the schools, it’s somebody’s mommy or daddy, husband or wife, and son or daughter teaching and working there.
It’s an honor to have that responsibility and trust.”
He tries to eat in the cafeteria every day with them, and says he has been establishing a healthy bond with the students.
“A lot of times, some of these children, the first interaction with police can be kind of scary. That’s why I try to eat in the cafeteria with them.
I get hugs and high fives. I didn’t want to get too formal with them, so I have them call me ‘Deputy Frank’.”
He said he could see the concern from parents, in lieu of the tragic incidences that have taken place in schools in the U.S. recently, and is aware that they want to send their children to school, but want them to be safe.
“The school board has done a fantastic job, in my opinion, by putting the safety of these children, teachers and staff first,” he said.
Deputy Howard lives in Daviess County. He graduated from Owensboro High School in 1990, and started his career in law enforcement in 1993 at the Daviess County Detention Center under former Jailer, Harold Taylor.
He was a Corrections Officer for 3 years, and then worked at the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department in 1996, and went through the Kentucky State Police Academy in Richmond for his training.
“I came back and worked about a year in Ohio County, and then transferred back home to Daviess County where I spent the next 18 years in Patrol,” he said. Over the course of those years, he acquired additional training, such as Radar Training, and also became a certified instructor to teach the other officers at his department.
Every year in Kentucky, he along with all law enforcement officers must have 40 hours of mandatory training, in order to receive KY Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund (KLEFPF) monies given by the State to keep their academies up-to-date.
When he took his first SRO position at Apollo High School in 2002, he was sent to Cincinnati to receive training, because the Department of Criminal Justice and Training (DCJT) in Richmond, KY didn’t have a class during the summer at the time.
It was a week-long course and he earned his SRO1.
There are currently 3 different courses that are mandatory for SRO training: SRO1, 2, and 3, and all four deputies will be completing those during school breaks.
“In 29 years of law enforcement, I’ve seen a lot. You don’t see it all, but you see a lot. When I was an SRO for 2 years at Apollo it was, bar none, my favorite position. The children made it such a wonderful place to work.
There were some scheduling conflicts, so I came out and somebody else went in.
I worked patrol for the rest of my career. I retired in 2015, then went back to work and did court security for 2 years in Daviess County.”
He also patrolled in Hancock and McClean County.
Deputy Howard says he feels very fortunate to have had good leaders to work under throughout his entire career.
“Principal Kelly Moore at NHES, and Assistant Principal Rhodes – I absolutely could not ask for two better people to work with. I’ve seen their passion with these children,” he said.
“You should be able to send your child to the school to have fun and learn and not worry about anything else.
That’s what I’ve told those children – they can come up and talk to me anytime that they need or want to. I’m there for them.
I want their first interaction with law enforcement to be a positive one.”
When I read to those first graders, as they were going back to class they said, ‘You’re the best police officer.’ They were hugging me and giving me high-fives. And that’s what it takes. You can’t be a role model sitting in your office – and the children never see you.
The honor and privilege is mine. I love my job.
When you work patrol, you can get burned out really quick.
But, these children keep you on your toes, they challenge you, they bring a smile to your face, and I would not have a different job in this world than what I’m doing right now.”
He said he really enjoyed being part of a class project at NHES last week as well. “Superintendent Asberry and Assistant Superintendent Poynter showed up. The class project was that Principal Moore got ‘kidnapped.’
The teacher, Ms. Lydane, did such a wonderful job with these children. From the word go, they were at 100 percent attention.
I asked her after class, ‘How in the world were you able to do such an awesome job with this?’ And what she said I will never forget. She said, ‘If I’m not having fun, they’re not having fun.’
Those words will stick with me. Those children were so engrossed in that project.”
The students were given clues and suspects. They went to Mrs. Moore’s office, and it was ransacked.
This “mock kidnapping” project happened on Tuesday, August 23 for Grades 4 and 5.
“I was in awe,” he said. “She had my attention. I was just there to learn. Those children loved it. She had it where I interviewed the suspects. She did such a wonderful job.
The ‘suspects’ were Assistant Principal Rhodes, Miss Chelsea Brown – Custodian, and Michael Swihart – P.E. Teacher.
The children had to use their critical thinking skills, it wasn’t given to them. They were inquisitive, asking questions. I was so glad to be a part of it.”
He said he’s had a few students already tell him, “I want to be one of you all one day.”
“I told them, ‘We can always use more. You gotta stay in school, mind your mom and dad, listen and stay out of trouble,” he said.
“I try to be a positive role model to these children.
They’ve made a difference in me already, just going on 3 weeks into the new school year.
It was told to me years ago – You give somebody a badge and a gun and that’s an awful lot of responsibility.
Being responsible for the well being and safety of children is a huge responsibility – people are entrusting you with the safety of their children.
That’s something that all 3 of us don’t take lightly. That’s our first priority and it always will be.”
By Jennifer Wimmer