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New Kensington-Arnold hires police resource officer for Valley High School

| Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

New Kensington officials said the creation of a school resource police officer's position at Valley High School should not be seen as a negative statement about New Kensington-Arnold School District.

Mayor Tom Guzzo said the officer will be able to build relationships with students, parents and teachers that can help prevent problems before they occur.

“The more presence a police officer has in the community, the more people will feel comfortable with them,” said Guzzo. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us.”

Guzzo said New Kensington Patrolman Joe Locke will fill the position. He said Locke works well with teenagers.

Locke will be involved with discipline and security issues, and he can assist with teacher training and help with a variety of programming, such as driver education, preventing cyber bullying and installation of child-safety seats.

Guzzo said Locke will have connections with social service agencies that can benefit students and staff.

“We want to make this officer a resource to the community,” said police Chief Tom Klawinski.

Guzzo said he and Klawinski have been considering the idea of a school resource officer for several years, particularly in light of the school shootings such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

They were able to implement the program with a $56,000 state grant that will cover the resource officer's salary for this school year. The city also is eligible for a grant that will cover 50 percent of the salary in the 2014-15 school year.

Guzzo said Locke will return to regular duty with the city when school is out for the summer. Since that typically is a time when police scheduling is difficult due to vacations and overtime, Guzzo said the situation will work well for the city.

The school district was not asked to contribute to the cost aside from making provisions for the officer's supplies and office space at the school, Guzzo said.

The school board in November approved the city's grant application.

“This is a great opportunity for the City of New Kensington and the New Kensington-Arnold School District and Valley High School to provide yet another public service and educational outlet for our students,” Superintendent John Pallone said in a statement. “The students will benefit from the guidance and leadership that an in-school resource officer will provide.”

Several local districts, including Apollo-Ridge, Franklin Regional and Plum, have school resource police officers.

Several more, including Armstrong, Freeport Area, Kiski Area and Leechburg Area, were awarded funding for an officer through the same state grant program.

“Some of the better schools in our area are doing this,” said Guzzo.

“I think every school could benefit from this,” said Councilman John Regoli.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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