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Franklin Regional debates background checks

| Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Though background checks might become mandatory for school directors who visit Franklin Regional buildings, a majority of the FR board members are opposed to having taxpayer money cover the cost of the clearances.

Franklin Regional requires school volunteers to have three background checks from the state police and FBI, but school board members are exempted from the policy. The board is considering a policy change this month to include themselves.

That prompted board member Dennis Pavlik to suggest that the district absorb the cost for all district volunteers to obtain the clearances.

“It recognizes the contribution (of volunteers) and the expense and inconvenience of obtaining these clearances,” Pavlik said at last week's board meeting. “It's a small gesture of gratitude of the district.”

Administrators and other board members disagreed with Pavlik's proposal because the district has hundreds of volunteers. Board members said they didn't see an incentive or reasoning to change the policy.

“We do not pay volunteers,” board President Herb Yingling said.

Pavlik said neighboring Penn-Trafford reimburses its volunteers' clearance costs, but Yingling said that the Penn-Trafford clearances are paid for by a fund to which people can donate, not taxpayer funds.

Matt Harris, Penn-Trafford's interim superintendent, did not return a call seeking comment.

Other nearby districts — including Plum, Gateway and Norwin — do not reimburse volunteers for the cost of clearances.

Obtaining all three clearances costs $58.75, said Marlena Buterbaugh, director of human resources.

Pavlik voted in favor of requiring volunteers to obtain clearances at their own cost when the policy initially was approved in June 2012. At that time, he did not ask for the district to absorb the cost of the clearances.

Board member Kim Bondi disagreed with Pavlik's suggestion.

“This is ridiculous,” Bondi said. “We're asking parents to pay activity fees, asking them to pay this and that, and now you want the school district to pay for … this doesn't make any sense.”

A search of the state common pleas court database shows that no current school board member or candidate in the fall election has faced criminal charges. The board is scheduled to vote on the policy on Oct. 21.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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