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Charleroi Area board adds armed security at schools

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 7:35 a.m.

Armed guards will patrol Charleroi Area's school buildings.

The school board Tuesday unanimously hired eight certified security personnel to work on a rotating schedule to safeguard the high school/middle school and elementary center buildings during school hours. Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko said the armed guards will be present at school-sanctioned events.

“We didn't just go out and get guys who are armed. We got certified people, either policemen or guys who worked with our kids before,” Ferko said.

“We really took a look at this and made sure it was in the best interests of our kids.”

The security employees will receive $16 per hour and each will work no more than 32 hours per week. Ferko said six are employed as law enforcement officers: Ryan Brand, Joe Pocsatko, Michael Carcella, Ryan Waggoner, Jessica Urban and Bill Gardner.

Marcus Carroll is a state constable and has been involved in previous school district programs. Keith Quinn does not work in law enforcement, but is certified by Washington County and has worked in other capacities with elementary students, Ferko said.

All will report to Charleroi Area security director Mike Kresich, a Charleroi Regional Police officer.

Ferko said the administration and school board worked with a parents' committee and made recommendations after a public forum in January.

“That was the number one thing the parents wanted, an armed presence in the school,” Ferko said.

Districts around the state have ramped up security in reaction to the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

A lone gunman there entered the building and killed 20 children and six adults.

Charleroi Area has installed a buzzer entry system at the elementary center and is looking to purchase a similar system at the other building.

Ferko said the security workers will serve at the will of the board, “so if we have somebody (who causes) a problem, we just won't call them back.”

In other business, the board unanimously approved a change in graduation requirements to include job-searching skills. Each student will have to complete a resume and undergo a mock job interview with area professionals.

“We want to make sure the kids are prepared to transition from high school into real life with a way to promote themselves and take that next step,” Ferko said. “And every kid does it, special education or not.”

Ferko said students who do not meet the additional criteria would “almost want to fail.”

“If you came into my office and chose not to take the interview seriously … then we would meet with your parents and you would have to explain to me in front of them why you don't think it's necessary to take a step to look at your own future,” Ferko said.

In other action, the board:

• Approved a one-year contract extension with Nutrition Inc. for food services.

• Renewed a three-year contract with business manager Crystal Zahand.

•Hired substitute employees, including two teachers, a cafeteria/custodial worker and a bus driver.

Rick Bruni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2635 or rbruni@tribweb.com.

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