By Peter Becker
WALLENPAUPACK - Over a quarter million dollars has been allocated in the Wallenpaupack Area School District budget to hire four, armed School Resource Officers in time for the 2013-2014 school year.
The District has begun advertising for a Director of School Security. Once in place, the Director would assist administrators with interviewing and hiring of the three additional officers.
As Superintendent Michael Silsby reiterated at the School Board meeting May 13, the Resource Officers are far more than armed guards. In addition to providing what is hoped to be a new measure of security, the officers will be embedded in the school culture, teaching safety and awareness of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. They will talk with students about careers in law enforcement. Officers will work to prevent juvenile delinquency through close and positive relationships with parents.
Silsby stated that they want students to feel comfortable with law enforcement in the midst, and be able to confide in the officers. He said they will specifically be looking for individuals who will meet the necessary characteristics.
One officer each will be assigned to the High School, North Intermediate/Middle School, North Primary School and South Elementary. Officers will take turns patrolling the Hawley Center on Academy Street.
The budgeted amount for the officers is $283,956.00. The expense does not have much impact on the budget because of cuts in other areas, Silsby later explained. Since 2010 the District has saved costs by not filling over 44 staff positions after personnel had retired or resigned. In the present school year alone, 12 retirements occurred, and their positions are not being filled.
The expense also includes the cost of supplies and equipment, especially for the first year. They also expect to purchase a patrol car.
The School District has had an emergency operations plan for several years and periodically has drills and joint exercises with regional emergency responders. The school shootings at Newtown, CT last December, however, led to a review of their safety protocols and an initial outpouring from parents to strengthen security at Wallenpaupack.
Wallenpaupack Area School District and Wayne Highlands School District are the only local districts without some form of armed security. Western Wayne School District has a contract with the Pa. State Police and Delaware Valley School District has a successful School Resource Officer program.
School Resource Officers are actual law enforcement officers with authority to make arrests as well as conduct investigations. The officers will be fully uniformed. They will work closely with the Pa. State Police, Silsby said.
The officers will provide a training course for school personnel in handling crises situations and assist administration in emergency crisis planning and building security matters.
The advertisement for the Director of School Security requires that the applicant be a certified law enforcement officer with current Act 120 or equivalent certification, a U.S. citizen and possess a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license. A minimum of 10 years of experience as a law enforcement officer is required with at least five years in a supervisory position.
Salaries and benefits will be commensurate with experience. Applicants will also have to undergo an
Act 34 Criminal History Clearance Report, an Act 151 Child Abuse History Clearance Report and a FBI Fingerprint Clearance Report.
A letter of interest and resume must be sent by May 31, 2013, to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Joann Hudak at Wallenpaupack.