The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 23, 2013

School resource officer will return to Windber

Superintendent: Safety trumps financial concerns

David Hurst

WINDBER — The next time an issue arises at Windber Area schools, a local policeman might be only a few lockers away.

School board members voted to put a school resource officer back on the campus.

The move will add $20,000 or so annually to the typically budget-minded district’s payroll. But Windber’s board didn’t hesitate Tuesday night, indicating improved security was paramount before giving the plan unanimous approval.

“(The vote), I‚Äąthink, was a case where the board showed it wasn’t putting financial concerns above student safety,” district Superintendent Rick Huffman said.

Board members unanimously approved working with Paint Township police on a plan to outline daily tasks and scheduling for the officer.

For the most part, the officer would have a presence throughout the district’s schools all day, every day, Huffman said.

Duties would extend beyond school security, he added. The officer would work with district staff on an ongoing basis to see how security measures could be modified. He would attend meetings, when appropriate, as student concerns arise and assist with student prom, drug prevention and drivers’ education programs.

“There’s still some details to work out ... but we hope to have an officer in the school as soon as possible,” Huffman said.

School officials said the midyear addition won’t have much of an impact on this year’s budget. Huffman said the district is under budget on alternative education and special needs funds because of lower than anticipated student participation. Some of those funds will be directed to the general fund to cover resource officer-related expenses for the rest of the year.

The budgeting process for 2013-2014 will determine how the position will be covered next year, Huffman said.

Windber utilized a school resource officer for several years through 2010 but did not keep the program going after Drug Free Schools money dried up, Huffman said, noting it was a difficult decision at the time.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., reminded many districts that safety is a priority on school campuses.

“We’re seeing a re-emphasis on safety, which is a primary mission of ours,” Huffman said.


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