MARION CENTER: School security officer under discussion
April 16, 2013 10:50 AM

MARION CENTER — Nine people so far have applied for the position of armed security officer in the Marion Center Area School District, and the school directors next week may vote on a job description for that position that is being revised.

The directors Monday reviewed a draft job description listing 16 qualifications including “have extensive work with law enforcement agencies” and “knowledge of standard practices and procedures used in protecting buildings and property while regulating the activities of the public.”

The directors asked that another qualification — having an Act 235 certification — be added to the list. Act 235 is a state-mandated certification for security officers carrying firearms.

The list of “essential functions and performance responsibilities” for the security officer includes receiving annual training in the use of weapons, including firearms, taser and baton; monitoring the general public’s entry into district buildings; conducting periodic walk-throughs of all school facilities to ensure safety; and refraining from functioning as a school disciplinarian except in the case of violations of the law.

Director Lori Marshall asked that that the phrase “except in the case of violations of the law” be deleted. She sought assurances that the person hired for the position would only provide security and would not be enforcing laws among the student body.

Also still to be resolved is a staffing model. Four options are having one officer for all three of the district’s buildings and campuses; having one officer for the high school and attached McCreery Elementary School and one more for Rayne Elementary School; having one officer for each of the three buildings and campuses; and maintaining the status quo — no officers on duty during the school day but having contracted security guards on duty at evening and weekend sports competitions, musicals and similar events open to the public.

“I’m willing to pay more taxes to go with scenario 3” — having an officer at each of the three school locations — said director Ron Oswald.

“What we’re doing now is working,” said director Keith Isenberg, referring to security measures already taken, including the installation of more surveillance cameras and break-resistant glass at entrances and enforcing policies of keeping doors closed and locked.

A state police sergeant previously told the directors it might take 15 minutes for a trooper on duty somewhere in Indiana County to reach the high school if there was an emergency there.

“We’re not reducing response time significantly” if the district’s lone security officer is at Rayne Elementary when he’s needed at the high school, Isenberg said.

The Rayne school is about seven miles away from the high school-McCreery school complex.

Isenberg also questioned if the directors had accurate estimates of the cost of hiring one or more security officers.

“We may not be able to find someone every year willing to work without health insurance,” he said. “We have the low-ball. What’s the high price?”

On another option for improving building security, district Superintendent Frank Garritano said an architect estimated it would cost about $87,000 to remodel the entrance to McCreery Elementary School so that anyone entering the building would first have to pass through the school office.

The directors Monday also continued their discussion on possibly creating a foreign language program for elementary students.

The board asked Garritano to research the feasibility of providing Spanish and French instruction for students in grades K through 8 rather than K through 6 so that there would not be a two-year gap without foreign language courses before high school students can take a foreign language beginning in their freshman year.

Also still to be decided is whether the courses, if approved, would be offered after school as on-line instruction or as a community service program, and whether the foreign language instruction would be mandatory or voluntary.

In an unusual ending to Monday’s lengthy board meeting, director Oswald said there has been considerable “snooping” going on regarding where he is residing since he and his wife recently divorced, and he asked the public and other directors to respect his personal privacy.

Isenberg accused Oswald of no longer residing in Region III (Rayne Township and Ernest Borough), the region he represents on the school board.

Isenberg said Oswald should resign as a director and the board should act to fill what Isenberg said should be considered a vacancy on the board.

Oswald responded that he still resides in Rayne Township, but said he would not disclose the address of his new residence.

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