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Veteran LBPD Officer has new role at BSD

As an officer with the Lower Burrell Police Department, Det. John Marhefka has served the community for almost two decades. This year, however, is his first in the role of School Resource Officer for the district – and he says that his job description has changed a bit.

“The School Resource Officer role requires me to wear a variety of hats – counselor, teacher, police officer and priest. It’s a job that I truly enjoy,” he says.

As the district’s first full-time School Resource Officer, Marhefka is generally at the high school from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, although he’s available to Huston Middle School and Bon Air and Stewart elementary schools, as well. His primary job is to provide enhanced safety for students and staff, Lower Burrell Police Chief Tim Weitzel says.

“His role is to be a person that students can come to and feel comfortable divulging information to if they feel something’s happening – maybe a student showing dangerous signs,” Weitzel says. “He’s a conduit. Instead of the school calling 911, it’s Det. Marhefka’s duty to handle police matters at the school.”

While this is his first year as School Resource Officer, Marhefka is a familiar face in the district. Having worked as a D.A.R.E. officer for 19 years, he’s already forged relationships with many students.

“He was the absolute logical choice for this job,” Weitzel says. “I couldn’t be happier.”

The School Resource Officer position was made possible with the help of a $60,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Safe Schools. Marhefka says that being committed to the district on a full-time basis has allowed him to introduce new initiatives, including a tour of the Westmoreland County Prison for ninth-graders and a program focused on automobile safety, Impact Teen Drivers.

“This position allows me to have much more interaction with the students than before,” he says. “It’s great to work for progressive and proactive people like Chief Weitzel and Superintendent (Dr. Shannon) Wagner.”

Assistant High School Principal Jim Croushore, who serves as the district’s Safe Schools Coordinator, agrees that Marhefka is a perfect fit for the position.

“The kids know him, and he has a very good reputation in the community and in the profession,” Croushore says. “He’s a good man.”

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