Ligonier Valley School District students heading back to school later this month will notice a change as they navigate the halls, as the school board on Monday approved motions related to adding a school resource officer to cover three school buildings and a school security guard for another.

The district was awarded funding to cover the cost of adding school security personnel through a two-year grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

School directors approved a memorandum of understanding with the Ligonier Valley Police Department for a school resource officer for the 2019-20 school year to cover R.K. Mellon Elementary, Ligonier Valley Middle School and Ligonier Valley High School.

Officer Shawn Knepper will serve in that capacity for the upcoming school year after recently completing the required school resource officer training.

“We’ve got a desk for him, he has the official Ligonier Valley badge, he has a grand master key, he can get in anywhere, any time,” Superintendent Dr. Christine Oldham said of Knepper.

The district and police department worked quickly to iron out details of the agreement to bring Knepper into the school resource officer role, Oldham said.

“When I agreed to do this, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. I thought maybe I was just kind of a hired gun in the school where I get to high-five the middle and elementary school students and fist bump the high school students and razz them in the halls,” Knepper said. “After attending the weeklong training, which was amazing, I realized that the program is so much more. It’s really the root of community-oriented policing.

“By putting an officer in the schools, you’re breaking down the barriers between the police and your community. Building relationships is the biggest part of us being there. Yes, I am in the school with a gun, I’m there to stop a threat and keep everybody safe, but ultimately, it’s about breaking down those barriers between the police and students and being there as an informal counselor and a law-related educator.”

Knepper will spend time at each of the three schools at the southern end of the district each week, Oldham said.

“We are excited because Shawn is a known face around all the schools. The learners know him, the staff’s familiar with him... We’re thrilled to have him,” Oldham said. “He’ll be interacting with kids throughout the day, providing learning opportunities, connecting families maybe to social service kinds of needs.”

The district had been in discussions with the Ligonier Valley Police Department and St. Clair Township officials regarding placing a school resource officer at Laurel Valley Elementary before opting to hire Clinton McChesney, a former state trooper, to provide school security guard services there at an hourly rate of $18. The hiring is contingent upon receipt of all required paperwork and finalization of a contract by the district’s solicitor.

In other business, the school board approved:

  • Hiring Paulina Burns as an assistant principal at Ligonier Valley Middle School for the 2019-20 school year, beginning Aug. 13 at a prorated base salary of $74,000 under the district’s administrative contract;
  • Payment of Pay Application No. 17 to Constellation NewEnergy Inc. in the amount of $1,228,543.39;
  • Retroactively, an agreement with Achieve3000 for professional development services at a cost of $8,085;
  • Retroactively, an agreement with TruGreen for pesticide services at a cost of $3,420;
  • Retroactively, entering into an agreement with AG iRepair, a division of Pennsylvania corporation AssetGenie Inc. to provide an insurance protection plan for 280 iPad 6 devices for a period of four years beginning with the 2019-20 school year at a cost of $69 per device;
  • Renewal of the vending proposal from A-1 Vending Co. to provide vending machines at the high school and middle school for a two-year period;
  • A service agreement with Highlands Hospital Center for Autism for furnishing Licensed Private Academic School Services for the 2019-20 school year at a tuition rate of $60,000;
  • An agreement with Derry Area School District for on-site hearing and vision therapy services for the 2019-20 school year;
  • An agreement with Ignite Education Solutions to provide two instructional aides, two Pre-K Counts aides and four K4 aides for the 2019-20 school year at a cost of $175,302.54;
  • An agreement with Ignite Education Solutions to provide 18 personal care aides for the 2019-20 school year at a cost of $305,948.62;
  • A contract for emotional support, deaf and hearing impaired support and autism support with Pressley Ridge for LVSD learners at a rate of $14,500 per semester for the 2019-20 school year ($500 increase) and extended school year at a rate of $1,100 ($100 decrease);
  • An agreement with Goodwill Southern Alleghenies to provide School to Work Transition Services;
  • An independent contractor agreement with Laura Chartier to provide Orientation and Mobility services for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years at the following rates: Direct Services (therapy), $70 per hour; Indirect Services (preparation, consultation, IEP review), $20 per hour;
  • A license agreement with Lincoln Learning Solutions for online courses for use through LV Online at a cost per learner of less than $3,000;
  • A Web Application Service Agreement with Eduready360 at a rate of $10 per learner (approximately $15,000 per year) for a period of up to three years, paid through a Mellon grant;
  • Accepting Sarah Simsic as a Graduate Fellow through St. Vincent College;
  • Adopting HMH “Into Math” as a resource for elementary ELA at a cost of $75,590.46 for a six-year commitment, payable in three equal payments of $25,196.82 per year for 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22;
  • An agreement with Seton Hill Child Care Services to provide two Pre-K Counts classrooms, one at each elementary building, for the 2019-20 school year;
  • A Memorandum of Understanding with Westmoreland Community Action Head Start;
  • The Westmoreland Casemanagement and Supports Inc. letter of agreement to provided services as part of the SAP program for the period of July 16, 2019, to July 15, 2021;
  • Teacher Induction Program revisions;
  • Accepting the resignation of Rebecca McGee, teacher at Ligonier Valley Middle School, effective retroactive to July 8;
  • Accepting the resignation for retirement purposes of Cheryl Fratrich, cook at Ligonier Valley High School, effective retroactive to June 30;
  • The transfer of Amy Krieger to a four-hour cook position at Laurel Valley Elementary;
  • Retroactively, for Rachel Clark, school psychologist, to enroll in graduate level courses at Indiana University of Pennsylvania during the 2018 fall semester and 2019 spring semester;
  • Staff assignments for the 2019-20 school year, and for building principals to be directed to and proceed with staff and learner scheduling according to recommended assignments;
  • Setting daily substitute rates for teachers for the 2019-20 school year as follows: $100 per day for the first 29 days; $110 per day for days 30 and above; $130 days for four consecutive weeks in the same position; 90 consecutive days in the same position is Bachelor’s Step 1 per diem rate;
  • Setting the following substitute/summer help rates, retroactive to July 1: Custodial, $10.75 for 2019-20; $11.05 for 2020-21; $11.35 for 2021-22 and $11.65 for 2022-23; and Cafeteria, $10 for 2019-20; $10.30 for 2020-21; $10.60 for 2021-22 and $10.90 for 2022-23;
  • Lists of substitute teachers, aides, secretaries, food service personnel, matrons and custodians for the 2019-20 school year, pending required paperwork;
  • Hiring Melanie Trzeciak as a special education teacher at R.K. Mellon Elementary School for the 2019-20 school year, beginning Aug. 19 at a salary of $45,517 based on the first step of the LVEA salary scale with a Bachelor’s degree;
  • Hiring Brandon Silk as a custodian at Laurel Valley Elementary beginning Aug. 26 at an hourly rate of $11.25;
  • The resignation of Clint Mullen, middle school extracurricular activities co-assistant;
  • Tentatively, policies/administrative procedures regarding lesson plans, student activity funds and transportation;
  • A list of school bus drivers, aides and alternate drivers for the 2019-20 school year as submitted by Lodestar Bus Lines Inc.;
  • Transportation schedules for the 2019-20 school year;
  • The request for school attendance are for the 2019-20 school year at R.K. Mellon Elementary for Mason Leonard;
  • Submitting the three-year Flexible Instructional Day application to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

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