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Leechburg Area district wants school security officer to be armed

| Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 1:26 a.m.

The Leechburg Area School District will seek a judge's approval for a newly hired security officer to carry a concealed weapon in the district's schools.

The school board Wednesday hired a retired state police officer, Roger Kaufman, 49, of Harrison as a school security officer and director of school safety. He starts Thursday.

Kaufman's pay was set at $16 per hour for the full-time position. He will work 10 months a year, according to the job description the board approved.

The position will be up for review in six months. That was done because the district anticipates hiring a new superintendent in October, and there will be new school board members taking office in December after the November election.

Kaufman was chosen from a field of more than 10 candidates, interim Superintendent Frank Prazenica said.

“He just fit what everybody felt was the best fit,” Prazenica said.

Kaufman, an Air Force veteran, retired from the state police in mid-July with 25 years of service, said state police patrol Cpl. Chris Robbins, who said he was a friend of Kaufman's in addition to being his supervisor.

“They couldn't have picked a better guy. I have nothing but flowering praise to say about Roger. I can't talk him out of retirement, unfortunately,” Robbins said. “His character speaks volumes. This guy, he's like Joe American.”

Kaufman worked at the Kittanning station since around 1996-97, where he was known for his vigorous traffic enforcement work on Route 28, Robbins said.

“(Route) 28 was his road,” Robbins said. “That road should be named after him for all the lives he saved. Most people who got a ticket on 28 got it from Roger Kaufman.

“He's an all-around good guy. He's level-headed. I trust him with my life. He's got an awesome relationship with kids.”

District Solicitor Robert Cinpinski said he will take the district's request to arm Kaufman to Armstrong County Court within a week. The district also wants Kaufman to have the authority to direct traffic.

Kaufman will not be able to be armed in the district's schools until the court approves.

School board Vice President Carlotta Del Vecchio said the board decided that if there is an emergency in the school, it would best for the officer to be armed.

“Hopefully, this weapon will never have to be touched,” Prazenica said.

In addition to being in the schools, Kaufman would attend events such as football games, ride school buses and be available for parent-teacher association meetings, Prazenica said.

“He's going to be here for the children,” Prazenica said.

Prazenica said Kaufman will not infringe on the jobs of other school employees.

“This is a unique position with unique duties,” he said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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