Providing more staff focused on safety at the high school will help create a better environment and provide more responsiveness when incidents occur, Verona Area School District administrators hope.

The district had already planned to add three new security assistant positions when the new high school opens in fall 2020, but fights on campus and parent concerns prompted moving the change a year earlier.

The positions will aim for the right balance between building relationships with students and responding to incidents, district director of human resources Jason Olson said.

“We don’t really see them as mutually exclusive,” Olson said. “Regardless of the relationship, we’re still going to need to enforce our school practices and policies and procedures.”

According to an email from Olson, the $172,750 for the three positions was repurposed from various areas, including some part time positions and professional development funding. The district announced the change shortly after three fights occurred in one day at Verona Area High School this spring.

The school will continue to have a school resource officer on the premises, as well. Olson said a focus on school practices led to interest in a person supervised by the district rather than an additional SRO, which is a Verona Police Department employee.

“It wouldn’t make sense from our perspective to hire additional law enforcement officers when we’re trying to get more assistance and support on the school rules and procedures,” he said. “We want to let our law enforcement partners address the criminal behaviors and issues, and we’ll address the school behavior and issues.”

The three new staff members will report to the district’s head of security, Corey Saffold.

The job description, which the district provided to the Press in June, lists nine “essential job functions.” Those include:

  • Build positive relationships with students based on open communication and mutual respect.
  • Assist with supervision of students during the school day to provide a safe and culturally responsive environment in which learning can take place.
  • React and respond to crisis situations using appropriate crisis response protocols.

Olson said he’s hopeful the staff members can help free up time for other staff, such as social workers and counselors, who have more “specialized training” and certifications, to avoid as much “supervision and coverage” as they’ve had to do in recent years.

“We’re just trying to make the best use of people’s time,” he said.

The focus on proactive efforts to prevent disruptive behavior or rulebreaking is consistent with the past few years of initiatives in the district that aim to reinforce positives in student behavior, the Nurtured Heart Approach and Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.

Staff have received professional development on those systems, which reward or give attention to students for following rules or setting good examples. The concept is that celebrating good work and relationships built through those interactions will encourage students to behave in a positive manner, as opposed to focusing on negative behaviors.

“Just like any adult in the school system, really trying to set up some times where there are positive interactions and we’re focused on student strengths,” Olson said. “Hopefully, long before there would be any kind of need for negative interaction.”

Olson said the new security assistants will be brought in a couple weeks before the school year to get them up to speed on training and help facilitate connections with local law enforcement and other agencies they will work with.

Contact Scott Girard at ungreporter@wcinet.com and follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.