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Plum/Oakmont

Plum safety efforts include new coordinator position, hiring of more officers

Michael DiVittorio
| Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, 10:51 a.m.

Plum School District officials appointed an assistant superintendent as safety coordinator and hired two more police officers in the latest round of security upgrades.

Rick Walsh was hired to manage kindergarten through eighth grades in April. Shortly after, he took the lead on many security matters for the district.

Board members rewarded him for those efforts by unanimously naming him school safety and security coordinator. His salary remains the same at $130,000.

He’ll oversee the implementation of Alertius, a mass notification system capable of sending messages to all devices connected to the district’s network.

“We’ll be able to inform all stakeholders when situations arise,” Walsh said.

The system’s first test run was Nov. 29. The district will review data and ensure teachers, students and parents receive all important notices.

Walsh said the software purchase, along with other pending upgrades, was made possible through a $160,000 donation by the borough.

He thanked Plum Mayor Harry Schlegel, borough Manager Michael Thomas and Plum council for their support.

“Everybody’s on the same page when it comes to keeping our students safe,” Walsh said.

Board Vice President Vicky Roessler has pushed for a safety coordinator for two years.

“Rick Walsh has the passion and the knowledge, which makes him the right choice to handle the administrative side of safety,” she said.

School directors also approved the hiring of Craig Harnish and Joseph Locke as district police officers at $22 per hour.

They will answer to police Supervisor Tim Hanna, who reports to Walsh.

Hanna said Harnish is retired from the New Kensington police force after 27 years and works as a Gateway School District police officer.

Locke has been a New Kensington officer for 28 years and a school resource officer for the New Kensington-Arnold School District for five, Hanna said.

“Our first two hires are going to be guys with applicable experience in school policing,” Hanna said. “I’m very confident, and I think we’re very fortunate.”

The next step in the district police process will be to have district Solicitor Bruce Dice petition the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas to have the men certified as officers. They will then be sworn in by Plum District Judge Linda Zucco.

Hanna said the goal is to have at least one armed police officer at each building by February, which means hiring two or three more people.

Other safety measures in the works include a review and update of more than 30 policies, student assistance and behavioral health improvements and training on the state’s new tipline, which is expected to launch in January.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, mdivittorio@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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