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Mt. Pleasant board hires 2 police officers for district

| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 10:15 p.m.
Rachel Basinger | for Trib Total Media
Stephen Ober (left) and Joseph Alessandro were hired Monday night as police officers for the Mt. Pleasant Area School District.

A soon-to-retire police chief and a retired Pennsylvania State Police corporal will be roaming the halls of Mt. Pleasant Area School District's buildings on Aug. 26.

School directors voted unanimously Monday night to hire Stephen Ober and Joe Alessandro as school police officers. Director Rick Albright was absent from the meeting.

Ober had been with the Mt. Pleasant Borough Police Department since 1979. He was hired as a part-time officer and has been police chief since February 2003. He will retire this year.

Ober said he applied for the position because he had a lot to offer the district, “since we've moved into the hazards of this school age.”

Ober also is at a point where he can retire and receive a full pension.

“Coming into the district and working with the kids is always something I wanted to do,” he said.

Alessandro graduated from the State Police Academy in 1998 and patrolled in several municipalities, including Greensburg, until 1996, when he began working in the Bureau of Drug Law Enforcement with the state police.

In 2001, he was promoted to corporal, spent time as a patrol supervisor and then worked with the Greensburg Vice Unit and as a Clandestine Lab Team member until his retirement this year.

Alessandro said he heard about the school police position through the grapevine.

“This is a new chapter of my life,” he said. “I ... retired in April, but I was a little too young to retire.”

He added he has always enjoyed coaching and being around students, serving as assistant varsity wrestling strength and conditioning coach at Hempfield Area High School in recent years as well as the Norwin Girls Club Lacrosse assistant coach this year.

Director Warren Leeder, chairman of the recently formed safety and security committee, said the first recommendation from the committee was to hire police officers.

“Never once did I hear any board member putting cost above the safety of our students,” he said.

All the directors welcomed the new officers.

Director Charles Holt said he was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the two candidates. Director Annette Wisneski said she wasn't sure about having officers carrying guns in the schools, but accepted it.

“As a new mother, this decision was very difficult for me. But I needed to believe and accept that we needed to go in that direction, knowing that when you go in that direction you won't go back,” she said.

The officers will come in with the rest of the staff on Aug. 19 so they are prepared to be in the halls on the first day of school on Aug. 26.

Rachel Basinger is a contributing writer.

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