School safety continues to be a top priority for Penn Hills School District (PHSD). WE recognize safety isn’t just about “buying stuff” either. Feeling safe is generally tied to a sense of belonging and feeling reassured that those in charge are paying close attention and being proactive. To that end, PHSD continues to follow a blended model of safety and security. Each school will continue to be staffed with Youth Engagement School Specialists (YESS) who are the first interface with OUR students. OUR YESS team works closely with students, families, and staff to identify and mitigate issues that are interfering with school focus and/or performance. PHSD also has traditional security officers on staff who are employed by OSA Global Security. These individuals assist with surveillance of movement inside and outside our schools. OSA officers will continue to monitor OUR recently enhanced camera systems, complete regular perimeter checks to ensure OUR buildings remain secure, screen visitors attempting to enter OUR schools, and they will also continue assisting with morning check-in procedures. Another layer of protection includes the onsite supervision of active-duty Penn Hills Police Officers, which has been extended to include all schools in the 22/23 school year, following the very successful pilot WE launched at the end of 21/22 when various social media posts were circulating locally and nationally. Given the additional safety and security funds made available by PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), OUR Board of School Directors authorized on 8/3/22 the Solicitor and PHSD Administration to take next steps in the formation of a PHSD School Police unit. PCCD funds will be applied to help fund force formation that is expected to include a new full-time PHSD School Police Supervisor and several PHSD Police Officers on duty in each of the schools. The Board has also authorized driveway booths, locked gates during most school hours, and no entry into the schools unless cleared in advance by the school office. While these enhancements will take time to coordinate and launch, please be reassured that all enhanced measures are being pursued to help bolster OUR layers of protection in the event of a crisis situation. You should also be reassured that WE realize the trauma associated with violence exposure and the presence of armed officers among US. Please trust that OUR active-duty police officers who have worked in OUR schools over the past several years have really set the tone. Having police in OUR schools MUST remain about Protecting and Serving those onsite. As WE know, it ABSOLUTELY takes a village to keep US all safe. Stakeholders (including OUR students) are encouraged to continue using the Safe2Say portal (phone, text, or email) to report any/all concerns about compromised safety and/or to tell a trusted staff member. OUR internal logging system has been enhanced over the summer to ensure all concerns are registered and investigated.
Finally, I want to remind all members of OUR PHAMILY that students will not be permitted to carry cell phones this year during the school day. As many are aware, the District experienced very positive results during the NO CELL PHONE pilot conducted at Linton MS last year. WE saw clear evidence of increased focus and fewer negative exchanges among students when the cell phones had been tucked away. WE anticipate similar results in OUR other schools this year, once everyone settles into a routine. Linton MS and PH Elementary will be using lock boxes in the classroom to help store student phones until dismissal, and PH High School will be issuing Yondr pouches that will remain locked during the school day. The Yondr pouch is a better option for older students and will help accommodate multiple class changes, early dismissals for work release, partial day training at Forbes Rd CTC in Monroeville, etc. OUR hope is that the districtwide NO CELL PHONE rule during the school day will give our kids a break from the often, non-stop social media posts and texting that seemed to increase following periods of remote learning. Families who need to reach their children are encouraged to call and/or email our school offices, and students who need to contact home will be given access to their phone and/or a district phone as needed. Those with medical conditions that rely on cell phone/app diagnostics are encouraged to contact your child’s Principal and/or School Counselor to discuss accommodations.
We look forward to a GREAT 22/23 school year! As always, do not hesitate to contact me directly should you have a concern or need assistance.