Gary Seman Jr. ThisWeek Published 11:26 a.m. ET Nov. 3, 2022
In the first week on the job at New Albany Early Learning Center, Chase Blankenship earned the nickname “PAW Patrol” from the preschool and kindergarten students at the school, 5101 Swickard Woods Blvd.
The sobriquet is from the animated TV series in which Ryder leads a group of rescue dogs.
Blankenship, the school’s new school resource officer, likes his new moniker and the assignment, something he calls “humanizing the badge.”
“I’m still getting used to it,” he said Nov. 2, his third day on the job. “I think it’s positive – putting a smile on all of their faces, high fives and fist pumps.”
Blankenship, 30, has been with the New Albany Police Department since January 2019.
Blankenship, children experiencing learning curve
He said the children are as curious about his equipment as they are of him and occasionally have to be reminded to keep a safe distance between themselves and him, which is part of the learning curve, he said.
A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in criminology, Blankenship worked at the Madison Correctional Institution before joining New Albany.
He makes an annual salary of $88,907 and has a benefits package worth roughly $24,000. Blankenship’s salary, while on duty 10 months at the school, is paid by the district. The city picks up the rest when he is not on campus.
Blankenship joins Leland Kelly, the SRO at the secondary, middle and high schools, and Robert "Jobie" Warner, who is assigned to the elementary and primary schools. All spend time at each school in the district. Kelly's and Warner's salaries are paid by the city.
SROs not for all districts, but they are for New Albany-Plain Local
Some local districts have pulled SROs out of the schools. The New Albany Police Department and New Albany-Plain Local Schools, however, enjoy a good relationship, said Greg Jones, New Albany police chief.
“I would be very personally disappointed if we had to pull our SROs out of the schools,” Jones said. “I think we would be remiss in not having a presence over there.”
Mass shootings at public schools in America have left parents, students and staff devastated and a sense of helplessness.
Blankenship, who lives in West Jefferson, said he and the other SROs take several hours of simulated shooter training every year.
Jon Hood, director of student services, safety and security with the school district, said he is pleased with the police department’s decision to add an officer at the school.
“Chief Jones often refers to the New Albany campus as a micro-city with 5,114 students and over 700 staff and parents and visitors daily,” Hood said. “After ongoing conversations with the chief reviewing our safety plans, it was determined that a third SRO would benefit the NAPLS learning community.
“A rigorous interview process took place, and we are excited to welcome officer Blankenship and look forward to his contributions, which includes focused support at the (Early Learning Center), as well as other areas of our campus,” Hood said.