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Armed resource officers for school; Wallenpaupack approves budget

By Kevin Kearney
May 22, 2013

The Wallenpaupack Area School District on May 13 unanimously approved a proposed $63.2 million budget for 2013-14 that includes the hiring of four armed school resource officers. The board hopes to adopt the budget at its June 17 meeting.

The salaries and benefits for the officers total $283,956. “We want to make safety a top priority,” said superintendent Michael Silsby. The district plans to first hire a director of school security, who would then assist in the interviewing and hiring of three additional officers.

The district has had an emergency response program for several years, but decided to take extra measures after the mass shooting in Newton, CT in December 2012.

An officer will be assigned to the high school, the north intermediate middle school, the north primary school and the south elementary school. The officers will work closely with Pennsylvania State Police.

“We expect them to be embedded in the school,” the superintendent said, adding that the district will be looking for officers who can build a rapport with students.

Silsby said the officers would be more than armed guards. The district hopes the officers can develop positive relationships with students and parents, teaching them about safety and how to be aware of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. The district hopes that once a rapport is developed, the students will feel comfortable with the officers and be able to confide in them. The district also hopes the officers can train teachers and staff about how to respond in emergency situations. The officers also will assist the administration in building security and crisis planning.

The hiring of the officers, which includes the costs of equipment and supplies, does not impact the budget because of cuts in other areas. In the past three years, the district has saved on costs by eliminating 44 staff positions through attrition, Silsby said, noting that there have been 12 retirements this year and those positions are not being filled.

In other budget matters, the millage rate for 2013-14 was set at 66.4832 (a 1.67 % increase) in Pike County and 13.1517 a (1.1% increase) in Wayne County. A mill is a $1 tax on every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.