West York schools welcome new school resource officers

West York Area School District Superintendent Todd Davies stands with members of the West Manchester township and police department after presenting a gift of a bulldog statue to honor the new school resource officers at the school board meeting Tuesday, Aug. 21.

When West York Area School Board member George Margetas learned who had been selected as the district's new school resource officers, he was happy to see familiar faces from the community.

"I was a teenager when you first started working," he said to Officer Brian Schlemmer, a 28-year police veteran who will be serving the middle school.

In fact, Margetas thought he'd be the perfect person for the job.

Both Schlemmer and Officer Joshua Sefchick, an 18-year veteran assigned to the high school, have a long history with the West Manchester Township Police Department.

"It was very competitive," said township Police Chief John Snyder, "but these two guys came out on top."

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The district officially welcomed the two officers at the monthly school board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21, where superintendent Todd Davies presented a gift to the department — a bulldog statue (the district mascot) wearing a police uniform.

It was painted four or five months ago by the niece of Jeff Ludwig, the buildings and grounds supervisor for the district.

It's weatherproof, "in case you wanted to stick a hat on him, maybe some galloshes," Davies joked, should it end up outside in front of the flagpole or the township building.

"This symbolizes the partnership between the township, between the police department and the school district," he said.

It's a collaboration that was a long time in the making — starting about nine months ago when Davies came on as superintendent. He said he and the board had discussed bringing in SROs to improve climate, culture and security in the district.

West Manchester Township Police Chief John Snyder introduces West York Area School District's new SROs, Officers Joshua Sefchick (left) and Brian Schlemmer (right.)

As time went on, Davies said, national incidents of school violence escalated the need.

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The district brought on officers last year from the West Manchester Township and West York police departments to cover security at arrival and dismissal and at certain school functions, but this marks the first year for full-time patrol officers.

"I know that the community — they felt safer," Davies said. "I think they felt better, they felt more connected than ever before with the township."

Snyder said he's excited about the partnership and thanked township manager Kelly Kelch and the board for all that went in to the planning process.

He said ultimately, "It's about the kids."

"If you would have said something like this to me a year or two ago, I would have probably said no, but under the circumstances, I think it's very important that we have a good working relationship with West Manchester (Police)," Margetas said.

"We need you guys at the school because things are changing," he said, "and it's a good thing."