PURCHASE LINE — Eleven months after first discussing the subject of hiring an armed security officer for protection during a private executive session, the Purchase Line School District still has not reached a decision.
Board member Roy Markle brought the issue to light during Monday’s night’s public meeting and said he’s growing weary of waiting for a decision on such an important topic.
“We’ve talked about it since October,” he said. “The longer we lag at this, that is what really bothers me. We are the farthest school away from any type of police protection in Indiana County and we are the only school that has not implemented a security system.
“The reason no one has heard about this is the Legislature says you shouldn’t broadcast your security plans, you should do it in executive session. We have done that since October. But this is the final piece on whether we’re going to have an armed security person in house.”
Markle’s initial motion to the board was to hire an armed officer from Kittanning-based Armstrong Security, which is composed mostly of retired law enforcement officials.
“It’s pretty easy what we’re voting for,” Markle said. “We’re voting for an armed security person on our campus every day that there’s school.”
Superintendent Shawn Ford revealed some preliminary dollar figures.
“We’re looking at $50,000, and I don’t expect it to go past $65,000 with the training we need,” Ford said, before adding the district had applied for a grant to help defray the cost.
After some debate among board members, Markle’s motion failed after a 4-4 vote.
Markle, Raymond Kauffman, Michele Buterbaugh and Jean Harkleroad voted in the favor of the motion, but board president Scott Gearhart, vice president Sandra Fyock, Pamela Gardner and Kevin Smith cast no votes. Scott Beers was absent.
“Our vote for the security was for the one firm in particular, not for security as a whole,” Gearhart said.
Before his vote, Gearhart asked Markle if he would consider hiring a school police officer, Markle said, “No.”
“The reason I am so adamant about this group, Armstrong Security, is because we have been looking for a long time, and we need to do something,” Markle said.
“This, to me, is a pretty cut-and-dry situation. The Armstrong Security group is 99 percent retired state troopers and a number of neighboring schools use them, including Marion Center. I’ve heard good things about them.”
Markle eventually amended his motion and asked that Ford talk to Armstrong Security before October’s meeting and “come back with a contract for us to approve or disapprove.”
That motion also fizzled without a vote, and Markle settled for a second amended motion asking parents and the public for their comments on the armed police officer issue. Ford said Purchase Line will post a link on its website this week for comments.
“I can tell you, on a weekly basis, when I’m at school activities, I’m asked why we don’t have a security group in here now,” Markle said.
“I’d like to know for whatever reason, if we’re dragging our feet because we want a lower price or we’re dragging our feet because we feel that we don’t need them. I would like to have the public send us some comments to see how they feel. I would even invite them to come to next meeting and voice their opinion.”
Ford said he favors hiring a police officer to handle security.
“We’ve had some discussions for a year in executive session, as Mr. Markle said, on the safety and security of our school,” he said. “My message has been the same.
“Some kind of school police officer has been my recommendation. But it has been more than just a police officer. To me, wherever we decide to go, it’s that comprehensive approach of school, safety and security.
“I think that we’re on the right road and I think that road will continue to grow so we have it right and we’re going to continue to do right by our kids,” Ford said.