Penn Hills School District committee fine-tunes volunteer guidelines

Patrick Varine
| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

At what point does a guest become a volunteer?

Penn Hills school board members and administrators discussed fine-tuning the definitions of the terms at a meeting of the board's policy committee Feb. 18.

The district's volunteer policy, adopted in January 2012, establishes two volunteer categories and one for guests.

A Level 1 volunteer is someone who assists and works directly under the supervision of a PHSD teacher or administrator and does not provide direct services to students or have unsupervised contact with them. They are required to obtain clearance from the state police and the state Department of Child Welfare.

Level 2 volunteers also work under supervision of a teacher or administrator but “may have reasonable expectations to have unsupervised contact with students.” These volunteers are required to obtain an additional clearance from the FBI.

“Guest” is defined as a person “invited into the school for a single event” who is “encouraged, but not required, to have clearances.”

Committee members have proposed defining guest as “a person who has spent 10 hours or less during the school year” performing volunteer work.

Superintendent Thomas Washington said a person volunteering more than 10 hours would be encouraged to get clearances.

“At that point, if a person still doesn't get them, then you have to ask why they're trying to get around the clearance requirement,” he said.

Building principals are responsible for guest lists at their schools, Washington said, and would be responsible for identifying frequent guests.

The committee also discussed the role and policy covering boosters for district athletic groups. Some band boosters, for example, act as chaperones supervising students at home and away games, while some football boosters pay booster dues and do not volunteer or supervise students.

The committee proposed requiring all boosters who are reasonably expected to have unsupervised contact with students to obtain clearances and keep them on file with the district.

Board member Denise Graham-Shealey, who attended the meeting but is not a committee member, wanted to know what the district's timeline would be for requiring volunteers to get clearances.

“Hopefully we're not going to vote on this in March and then expect everyone to have clearances the next day,” Graham-Shealey said.

District human resources director Lindsay Pfister said the remainder of this year would be devoted to informing volunteers about the policy and how to get clearances. They would be required to have them by next year.

Parent Teacher Association President Chris Polaski said PTAs have been informed of the proposed changes and advised to begin having volunteers seek needed clearances.

The school board will vote on the proposed policy at its meeting at 7:30 p.m. March 11 in the high school, 309 Collins Drive.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or

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