School district welcomes its first resource officer
The Catasauqua Area School District family gained an important new member for the 2018-19 school year. Officer Jenna Dumansky-Potak has joined the district as the School Resource Officer (SRO).
Superintendent of Schools Robert Spengler and Police Chief Douglas Kish were both excited about the partnership.
“It is a win-win for both the school district and the borough,” Kish said.
“Chief Kish has been a pleasure to work with on this project, and I look forward to continuing and expanding our relationship,” Spengler said.
Dumansky-Potak has been a member of the Catasauqua Police Department since March 2014. Before that, she graduated from the Lackawanna Police Academy. She also earned an associate degree in criminal justice at Lackawanna College, where she graduated with high honors. She began her law enforcement career in 2012 with a small department in the Berwick area.
According to Kish, she was chosen as the SRO because of her ability to connect with people, especially youths.
“She is very people-oriented and has a great ability to connect with them,” he said.
Dumansky-Potak said she has a firm connection to the community and wants to help foster positivity in the young adults in the schools. She hopes to impart knowledge and important lessons to help keep the students safe. She wants to teach lessons the students can take with them out in the world.
Some of the topics Dumansky-Potak wants to talk about include texting and driving, underage drinking, drug use, drinking and driving, social media dangers, bullying, suicide prevention and greater awareness and understanding of mental illness.
“Most of all, I want to keep the schools safe and make the students feel safe while in the schools,” she said.
The role of an SRO will require Dumansky-Potak to have a presence in all three schools. She will connect with the students, make them feel safe and show them the police can help them. She will provide daily security, advisory and proactive student-based programs and activities for the schools.
“She will be a role model for both boys and girls and present a positive image of the police and the department,” Kish said.
“Jenna’s proactive nature and approachable demeanor provide the basis of her success in positive student and community interactions,” Spengler added.
Part of the SRO’s job is to handle any incidents that require police action at all three schools. According to Kish, they are working on an agreement with the Northampton Borough Police Department to allow her to have police powers at the high school. The high school property is in Northampton instead of Catasauqua.
Dumansky-Potak attended a training specifically designed for SROs during the first week of October. Kish also reported they hope to have her trained in other curriculum such as D.A.R.E and Stranger Danger as well.
According to Spengler, Dumansky-Potak is a crucial component of districtwide safety and crisis planning, including serving on the districtwide school safety committee, regular administrative advisory councils, the active shooter drill planning committee and more.
Spengler approached the police department initially in 2005 and attempted to get an SRO then. Unfortunately, due to other factors, it was not able to happen.
As time passed and it became more and more important to place security in schools, the school district and police department decided to revisit the topic. With additional funding from state grants, they were able to officially implement the SRO position. The addition of the officer was unanimously approved at the Aug. 14 school board meeting.
Spengler added the school district is also offering mental health services for students and families in the district through Salisbury Behavioral Health.
“This proactive approach, in concert with Officer Dumansky-Potak’s expertise, constant presence and ties to the community will undoubtedly provide a greater level of service to our students and community families,” he said.
Spengler thanked the police department, Borough of Catasauqua, school board members and community for helping make this happen. Safety is one of the primary focuses of the school district and this is a big step, he said.
“I am confident Officer Dumansky-Potak will prove to be an asset to both the school and greater community in fostering a safer environment by her collaborative and approachable demeanor,” Spengler said. “We are ecstatic to have her on our team.”