The program is meant to be a deterrent.
By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
POLAND -- Teachers, books, students, crammed halls -- and a uniformed, armed police officer?
That will be the scene for Poland Seminary High School students starting April 29 when a full-time township police officer will be in the school during normal school hours and at special events.
The move is the result of a $125,000, three-year grant from the U.S. Justice Department that will pay the salary for an additional officer at the high school. Any cost above the grant amount will be divided between the police department and the school system.
Other police departments in Mahoning County, such as Canfield and Beaver townships, have also received the grant in the past.
Police Chief Carl Massullo said the objective is to be proactive in solving any potential problems involving youths before they get out of hand.
"It's not enough anymore to sit back and react when something happens. Communities like this are looking for more to be done in a proactive sense," he said. "Cops and schools have had better success when they have formed partnerships."
Massullo said some people in the community have questioned the need for a full-time officer at a high school in a relatively quiet community such as Poland. The chief, however, said the community faces the same problems as any other community with drug experimentation and alcohol use. Officials here are not going to run from the problem, but will take a stand to quickly rectify it, he said.
Trustee Bob Lidle said it is much better to be safe than sorry. He said anyone who looks at more recent tragedies involving schools around the country will see that those incidents did not happen at inner-city schools.
According to Massullo, police have always conducted unannounced, random searches using police dogs in and outside the school. The new officer, he said, will develop additional programs and serve as a visual deterrent for any potential problems.
In addition to security duties, the grant stipulates that the officer must also provide an educational component where he will occasionally go into the classroom and teach some aspect of safety.
Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Zorn said school officials, with safety first in mind, welcome the idea. He said areas like the outside parking lot after school have always been a concern.
"We certainly think it is a good idea. I think it will add safety to the school and that's the most important factor," he said.
Frank DeMain III, 25, will be the officer assigned to the school. DeMain has been a deputy sheriff for more than a year and a part-time township officer for eight months. He will be paid $33,051 annually.