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South Middleton School District moves forward with school safety and security position | #schoolsaftey

Rather than wait for definitive word of a possible grant opportunity, the South Middleton School Board decided recently to go ahead and advertise the position of supervisor of school safety/security officer.

The general fund budget for 2023-24 includes about $102,652 to pay the salary and benefits of the new position that combines administrative duties with routine patrols of school district property.

There was discussion during the budget review process to only fund the position if the district could obtain a grant from a state agency, such as the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

In the end, board members approved the budget with the new position included as a line-item, but there was still hope in early June that a grant could be made available before the start of the academic year on Aug. 24.

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Superintendent Kevin O’Donnell came into the June 19 meeting with three options for the board to consider in how to resolve the timing of this position.

The first option was to go ahead and advertise the position with the expectation that general fund money would be used to pay for the salary and benefits.

The second option was to put a hold on posting an ad until after the district knows for sure that a grant exists to fund some or all of the personnel costs on the new position.

The third option was to advertise the position to identify a possible candidate for the job and then hope that person would be willing to play a waiting game for a grant to become available and cleared through the review process.

As O’Donnell saw it, the situation was still in flux even though Crime and Delinquency officials had sent out information to school districts on what safety and security grant programs could be available in 2023-24.

“It’s taking a look at the crystal ball to make a determination,” he told board members. “Is there grant funding? Does the grant funding meet the parameters of the school district? Could it be a one-year grant, a multiyear grant? I don’t have the answers because the state has not passed its budget yet.

South Middleton School Board approves job description, continues debate for adding security supervisor/officer

“There are no solid external funding sources that I can see,” O’Donnell said. “I don’t know when the state budget is going to pass. I don’t know when grants are going to come through. I don’t know the evaluation criteria for grant applications. There are unknowns. If you ask me to make an estimate – November probably would be ambitious. December realistically, if there has to be a timeline on it.”

Though no vote was taken on June 19, the consensus among the seven board members present was to go ahead and advertise the position even if it means using general fund money to pay the personnel costs. Board members Robin Scherer and Terry Draper were absent.

“We don’t have a very clear picture,” board member Tony Lucido said. “There are so many variables. We have budgeted for this. I would really prefer to start off the school year with an officer.”

If grant money becomes available after the position is filled, the district could always seek funds to pay for other safety and security upgrades, Lucido said.

“I agree,” board member Eric Berry said. “We’ve already made the decision that we need it [the position]. I figure if the grant comes along, it would be a happy surprise.”

As an administrator, the supervisor/security officer would work full-time out of the district office and report to the assistant to the superintendent. The officer would manage the safety and security plans for the district along with its emergency response procedures.

The officer would also patrol school district buildings and grounds to prevent disruptive or illegal activity, access to restricted areas and theft or vandalism. The job description allows the security officer to interview, detain and hold serious offenders until police arrive.

South Middleton School Board considers adding safety, security expert to budget

Officials from the Pennsylvania School Safety Institute and the Pennsylvania School Board Association participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday afternoon in Silver Spring Township to open the institute’s facility. The 5,000-square-food state-of-the-art facility utilizes a 360-degree augmented reality and a multiroom simulator to teach district personnel, law enforcement officials and security staff about a variety of security threats and de-escalation tactics.

Maddie Seiler

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