Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South high schools will be staffed with 15 security officers next school year as the District 86 implements a myriad of safety and security improvements.
Eight of the 15 will be former police officers, including Ed Rompa who retires Friday as police chief of La Grange Park.
With mass shootings in public places and businesses happening nearly every other month across the United States, and as close as at the Henry Pratt company in Aurora in February, school officials said there is a need to prepare to prevent such a tragedy.
“The safety and security of our students and all our staff is the most important thing we do,” said school board President Nancy . “It’s such an unpredictable world, we don’t want to look back and say could we have done more.”
Earlier this year, the school board approved director of security Kevin Simpson’s plan to replace most of the staff who supervised the students in the corridors and study halls with employees with law enforcement, military or security experience.
Simpson himself is the former Hinsdale police chief.
Rompa said he and Simpson have known each other since they both attended Joliet Catholic high school. Rompa said he looks forward to working with his law enforcement colleagues on keeping the high schools safe.
Working in the high schools is an extension of what he has done heading the La Grange Park Police Department, where all the officers are state certified juvenile officers, Rompa said.
The new security officers, who will start in August, include two former Hinsdale police officers with 30-plus years of experience, Mark Keller, who was assigned as the resource officer at Hinsdale Central, and Michael Coughlin, who as a crime prevention and juvenile officer and D.A.R.E. instructor became a familiar face at community events.
Some of the new District 86 security guards also were police officers in Oak Brook, Lisle, Villa Park and deputy police chiefs in Forest Park and Cary.
Seven people who were student supervisors in the district will be transitioned to the job of security officer.
Domenico Maniscalco, the district’s human resources officer, said administrators looked for people who recognized the importance of developing positive relationships with the students and staff in the school.
“It was not our goal to hire a SWAT team to roam the campus,” Maniscalco said. “The goal was to hire trained security personnel who knew what to do in an unforeseen emergency, but were student-focused.”
District officials would not say whether the security officers will carry guns, saying they do not want their security measures public.
The new positions will pay $35,000 for a 10-month position and, like other support employees in the district, will participate in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund if they work more than 600 hours a year, Maniscalco said. An employee has to work 10 years before they can collect a pension from the self-funded municipal retirement fund, Maniscalco said.
Rompa will be paid $45,000 to be the supervisor of security officers at Hinsdale South.
Although the $140 million referendum District 86 voters approved in April includes about $1.5 million in security upgrades at each school, referendum dollars will not be used to pay for the security officers or their training, said chief financial officer Josh Stephenson.
District 86 already has a crisis plan that includes how to respond to an active shooter to reduce the number of victims, Simpson said. The students and staff regularly practice lockdown drills in which students and teachers secure themselves in their classrooms.
In August, however, the entire district staff will undergo ALICE training, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.
“Alice teaches individuals to participate in their own survival, while leading others to safety,” Simpson explained in a memo to the school board.
Although learning the new skills does not guarantee safety, they will greatly increase the odds of surviving a mass attack by a gunman, Simpson said.
The staff is asked to complete an online course prior to Aug. 15 and will have hands-on training Aug. 30, when students will not attend school.
Once the employees are trained, students will receive a more condensed version of the instruction, Simpson said.