SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The Scranton School Board voted 6-3 Monday to enter into a three-year, $3.4 million contract with Cardinal Point Security Group that will provide 20 new school security officers to the district.

The school security officers will be in addition to the school resource officers employed by Scranton Police Department. The vote included a budget transfer of $425,000 for the 2022 school year.

Along with the new security, other changes are coming to the Scranton School District for the upcoming school year, including a new clear backpack policy and banning personal electronics in the classroom.

The Request For Proposal (RFP) was sent out in July to 19 Security Firms based in Pennsylvania whose services have been approved by the Pennsylvania Board of Education to operate in school districts across the Commonwealth. 

Board members tell us that it will be a “phase in” process, first placing them in the most needed schools and eventually placing one in each elementary school as well. 

Officials also say that determining whether the School Security Officers should be armed was a very difficult decision they decided to make. 

There are currently 3 “\School Resource Officers in the district provided by the Scranton Police Department who will remain in the schools and work with Cardinal Point Security to make sure the Scranton School District is as safe. 

“I’m not sure if I could ever be completely comfortable with all of this but I am very concerned that our policies are not yet in place. I’m concerned we didn’t go through the committee process or at least a work session and we’ve run into trouble with that in the past, Katie Gilmartin, Scranton School Director said in part.

While some board members say the decision seems rushed, others are confident that this is the right decision. 

“This is a priority, safety comes first for all of our students, our staff, all of our faculty. We’re taking the right steps between the phones, the Raptor system, and now making sure we have more of a presence in the hallways and in the school in general,” stated Sean McAndrew, Scranton School Director.

Stemming from a homicide that occurred at the end of the school year, Safety and Discipline Committees were formed at each school so all employees are able to express their concerns about each individual school. 

Eyewitness News was told by Catherine Fox that these committees were not asked how they felt about hiring an armed security officer in their respective school. 

“I spoke to many parents last night and they had no idea we were voting on this and that is a huge concern that something so significant for our district, the community was not involved to the point that they should be and weren’t even informed of what was going on,” explained Catherine Fox, Scranton School District Board Director.

“Nobody will be going into our schools without a much higher level of training than is required by law. Cardinal Point has a reputation for providing mature, sensible people who also have training in de-escalation and working with children. The idea is they will create a calm, creative environment where our teachers can teach, and our students can learn,” stated Ro Hume, Scranton School District Board Vice President.

“The armed guards add an additional level of protection to our school buildings. We have had armed officers in our secondary buildings for many years. This will allow us to extend this protection to our elementary school buildings and the Electric City Academy,” stated Superintendent McTiernan.

The superintendent says the ultimate goal would be to have their own force in the school district.