Chartiers Valley School District is taking steps to improve safety and security in its schools.
Board members on June 11 unanimously approved the hiring of longtime law enforcement officer Edward Joyner to serve in the district’s newly created administrator of safety and security/school police officer role. He will earn a salary of $65,000, with a start date of Aug. 15.
“We as districts have to make sure that our schools are safe,” said Superintendent Johannah Vanatta, noting that all too often schools are seeing in hindsight that there were signs prior to a tragedy. “We need to get ahead of this as school districts and put in these proactive measures.”
In June 2018, Gov. Tom Wolf signed Act 44 into law, creating mandates for districts related to school safety.
The law established mandatory school safety training and sets standards for school police officers. It also required all school entities to name a school safety and security coordinator by Aug. 31, 2018.
“It’s not a bad thing that the state is now telling school districts that you have to take this seriously. It’s good,” Vanatta said.
It was Act 44 that led Chartiers Valley to create the administrator of safety and security/school police officer role, Vanatta said.
Joyner, who spent 25 years as a trooper with Pennsylvania State Police, will assume that role. He has a wealth of experience, including working as a personal assistant for Ben Roethlisberger. Additionally, he has experience with hostage negotiations and narcotics enforcement.
District leaders in a statement said they are aware of Joyner’s employment history and look forward to his service as safety and security coordinator and school police officer.
“His credentials, his experience, his demeanor and his focus on children is what put him ahead of anybody else that I could find out there,” Vanatta said. “I think our students will respond well and enjoy having him in our buildings.”
Joyner’s job will be to “coordinate safety and security measures in the district,” which include making sure the staff is trained in school safety measures, Vanatta said. He also will “serve as a liaison to make the district safer and securer,” she said.
Joyner, 52, of North Strabane, has experience in school police work. Prior to joining state police, he worked as a police officer in Pittsburgh Public Schools. After retiring from state police in January, Joyner has worked part-time on the Sewickley police force.
“Unfortunately, we’re moving into a day and age where school safety is a very intricate part of law enforcement,” he said.
During the interview process, Joyner said, Chartiers Valley administrators made him feel like there was a home for him there. He plans to work with the community and also “hand-in-hand” with officers from Collier and Scott, he said. He will bring in a fresh perspective as someone coming in from the outside.
“It’s not beneath me to give high-fives or sit down and talk about life” with the students, he said. He wants kids to feel comfortable opening up to him.
He also plans to bring his active shooter training to the district in some capacity.
“I’m up for the challenge,” Joyner said.
With the hire of Joyner, Chartiers Valley will operate a hybrid model of school safety personnel, with a mix of school police — an officer employed by the district — and school resource officers — an officer employed by the local municipality who works in the schools.
Joyner will serve in the school police capacity role, as an employee of the district, and operate from the intermediate school, while traveling to all buildings in the district, Vanatta said.
The district partners with Collier and Scott where their officers serve as school resource officers in three of the schools. The district pays about 70% and the municipalities 30% at a per diem rate for the time the officers spend in the district, the superintendent said.
According to district leaders, Collier police Officer and school resource officer Bill Oslick will continue to serve at the middle school and high school buildings. Scott police Officer and school resource officer Ed Povirk will continue to serve at the intermediate school.
Collier Officer Dan Elway will assume the role of school resource officer at the primary school. Officer Joseph Duckworth made the decision to return to patrol, school leaders said.
Elway comes to the primary school with 15 years of experience on the Collier force and is a trainer for newly hired officers, works as a defensive tactics instructor and bicycle officer.
In Chartiers Valley, it’s a goal to have one officer stationed in each of the district’s four school buildings by this time next year, Vanatta said.
“We’ve been really fortunate to have officers in our buildings for some time,” she said.
The goal, with all of this, is safety.
“I hope that we provide the safest environment for our students in all aspects,” Vanatta said.