Ringgold to create school police department

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NEW EAGLE – Ringgold School District is seeking a security chief as it builds a police department to provide armed officers at the entrances to all of its schools in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre in Connecticut.


The school board on Wednesday authorized Ringgold administrators to advertise for the position, which will cost taxpayers $75,000 a year in salary and benefits, Ringgold Superintendent Karen Polkabla said.


“He’s going to bring to the table professional police training,” Polkabla said.


“We have to limit access to the buildings,” board President Mariann Bulko said. “We’ve already incorporated panic buttons at Ringgold Elementary School South.”


Ringgold directors, like those across the country, have revisited school security after Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 young children and six staff members before killing himself in a Dec. 14 rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School that also has the country re-evaluating gun control.


Ringgold directors decided to create a police department a year after they replaced an armed police officer at the high school with an unarmed security director, leaving the district reliant on Carroll Township police to make arrests.


“In light of recent events, you can look parents in the eye and say you did the right thing,” Director Maureen Ott said.


“This is an important thing,” added Director William Stein Jr.


The board also voted to authorize Polkabla to direct where and when officers with proper clearances may carry weapons on school property.


The security director, Thomas Thompson, said he is in support of hiring a chief of security, and that he will gladly work alongside the armed officers.


“I want to make sure our children are as safe as possible,” Thompson said.


Meanwhile, the board also agreed to hire HHSDR Architects & Engineers to oversee construction of a middle school on the high school campus during yet another contentious marathon meeting, where directors debated nearly every issue brought to the table.


“Somebody in the audience said we should be the new reality TV show,” Stein said. “I agree with that. When meetings last this long, they are not effective.”


Ott presented a motion limiting directors to three minutes each of discussion on agenda items and ending discussions once the president has called for a vote. Her motion passed 6-3, with Directors Larry Mauro, Charles Smith and Robert Smith casting no votes.


The board also approved the hiring of Barone Murtha Shonberg & Associates Inc. of Pittsburgh to set commercial appraisals on closed elementary schools in Monongahela and Donora.


“What’s the hurry?” Robert Smith said.


Ott said selling the buildings would put them back on the tax rolls and they would be repurposed.


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