The Bethel Park Board of School Directors is pleased to be able to begin the school year on firm financial footing, as we passed the budget for the 2018-2019 school year in May, containing a zero millage tax increase for the third consecutive year.
This accomplishment does not happen by chance. It happens because we have an administrative team committed to not only providing an excellent education to our students, but also being cognizant of the financial impact the budget has on the community.
We are especially pleased that no programs were cut with the 2018-2019 budget. Not only are we able to maintain a high level of quality services that our taxpayers have come to expect, but we also be able to focus on improving areas that need additional support.
Prudent budgeting for 2018-2019 also allowed us to add three additional police officers to our School Police Force. We continue to utilize the services of Bethel Park Police Detective Joelle Dixon as our School Resource Officer to maintain the positive and vital connection we have with the Bethel Park Police Department.
The hiring of additional officers is in direct response to the community’s request for making our schools as safe as possible in light of the acts of violence in Florida and other states during the 2017-2018 school year.
After investigating several approaches to increasing safety, and after consultation with the Bethel Park Police Department, we concluded that the hiring of additional officers would provide us with the most effective way to ensure the safety of everyone.
Our School Police Officers have more than 90 years of combined experience in law enforcement, and we believe their presence in our schools will help to create what we are calling a Safe and Supportive School Environment.
School Police Officers are not in our schools solely to react to situations, but they are equally there to be proactive, which we believe will diminish the need to be reactive. The officers will be present in all of our schools, working with students and building positive relationships, which we believe can be a powerful deterrent to identifying and stemming problems before they can escalate.
We will also rely on the expertise of the Officers to help us to refine and enhance our safety procedures, especially in emergency situations, which we hope we never have to put into action.
To enhance our Safe and Supportive School Environment, we were also able to include in the budget an increase in hours for our contracted Social Workers. These professionals work in all of our schools, addressing the social and emotional needs of our students as well as any mental health issues. Our Social Workers provide vital services such as individual counseling, group sessions on targeted topics, and crisis response.
Additionally, the District has entered into a one year contract with Outreach Teen and Family Services to provide screening and mental health counseling for students (with parental consent), parent training and professional development for our faculty.
We view all of these measures as positives that will help our students to identify and work through the challenges they are facing, and give them the coping skills and confidence that will result in academic success, a positive attitude toward school and a decrease in disciplinary issues.
We will also continue to pursue additional funding sources to help us offset some of the costs of providing these necessary services to our students.
On behalf of the Bethel Park Board of School Directors, I want to welcome everybody back to school for another exciting year of learning. Enjoy the rest of your summer and we’ll see you on Tuesday, August 21!