Grove board approves hiring 2 sheriff’s deputies for schools

Valley Grove School Board on Monday unanimously approved an agreement to hire two Venango County sheriff’s deputies to patrol the district’s elementary and high schools beginning in January.

“These officers will provide school security,” said Superintendent Kevin Briggs. “We are pretty excited about being able to do this. We are kind of blazing a trail.”

One of the “main components” of the hiring is that the district could have “an armed person” at the schools, said Briggs.

The deputies will be hired as the result of an agreement between the school district and Venango County.

One deputy will be hired full-time because he will also provide security during the summer months. The second deputy is designated as part-time because he will not work during the summer months.

Both deputies will patrol the schools during all the school hours.

During the discussion of the proposed agreement before the vote, board member Christine Bingman questioned the estimated costs of training the officers. The costs were listed at $5,000 per officer.

“I am not sure what we are paying for, what kind of training they would need. Could we have that clarified?” Bingman asked.

Briggs said his office would obtain an itemized list of the costs. He also pointed out that some of the cost is for “uniforms and equipment” for the deputies when they are in the schools.

Bingman also requested that “cyber crime” be “addressed” by the deputies along with other crimes listed in the agreement, such as “violence issues, gangs and drug activities.” The agreement was amended to include those items.

Briggs said the district could now move forward in working with the sheriff’s office to hire the officers and place them, hopefully by the beginning of January. The agreement will run to June 30, 2020.

“When we place them in the schools, we will introduce the idea of the officers to the children,” Briggs said. “They will be checking entrances, going in and out of classrooms, and, in time, educating the kids sometimes, doing some mentoring.”

The agreement also calls for the deputies to be “a resource for teachers, parents and students for conferences on an individual basis dealing with individual problems or questions, particularly in the area of substance control.”

The deputies won’t be involved in school discipline except to “intervene to the extent necessary to preserve” those in the school from “risk of harm,” according to the agreement. In other cases, the agreement specified that “disciplining the students is a school district responsibility.”

In other business Monday, the board unanimously approved five requests for the payment of transportation and activity costs for field trips in upcoming months. There was some discussion about specific costs and an amendment to one request that would send two fewer staff members to an event.

The board also approved two requests for one teacher each to attend two conferences, and the panel also approved three fundraising events.

In the reorganization meeting before the regular meeting, the board re-elected Melanie Anderson president and Cindy Swendsen vice president for 2019.

The board also approved having just one meeting five months of the year when the workshop session and business meeting would be combined.

The months with just one meeting will be April, June, July, November and December. The board agreed that if it would need to meet a second time in one of those months in order to consider hiring proposals, it would advertise and schedule a meeting as needed for that month.