Safe and Sound: RSD Safe Schools Officer Takes the Lead
At Reading School District, providing a safe and secure learning environment is top priority. After three years of pandemic disruption and uncertainty, school safety is everyone’s top concern. Meet Robert Yelk, our new Lead Safe Schools Officer (SSO). He sees a bright path forward.
“As Lead SSO, there are three main goals I’d like to achieve,” said Yelk. “1) Provide a safe and secure environment that also provides a welcoming feeling and sense of belonging for all. 2) Maintain a well-trained, community-oriented, professional workforce. And 3) build positive relationships with students, staff, and the community we serve.”
Superintendent Jennifer Murray has made improvements to school safety an ongoing priority. “We believe in continuous improvement. We’ve listened to our students, staff, and community members to understand their concerns, and then developed plans to address them. We’ve made many security improvements this summer, with more to come. As our Lead SSO, Robert Yelk will help us reach many of our goals, including recruiting more safe schools team members, who can serve as positive role models and help create a welcoming school environment for everyone.”
Yelk understands the hesitancy many have when it comes to taking a job in school security. “When I started, this job was a placeholder for me,” he said. “But as I worked my first year, I found I enjoyed my interactions with students. I found real support from my coworkers. And I found my calling where I least expected it. This is now my seventh year as a Safe Schools Officer, and I look forward to continuing on this path.”
Yelk said graduation is his favorite time of year. “Knowing that for some students, our Safe Schools team had a big part in helping that student cross the stage…that’s the best part of the job. We make a difference.”
Yelk also believes that school safety is everyone’s job. “School safety cannot fall just to those labeled as security/safety officers,” he said. “Students, parents, staff, and the community must work together to prevent emergency situations and respond to incidents that may occur.”
Schools that foster a sense of safety can improve behavioral and academic outcomes by supporting students, especially those experiencing mental health or other challenges. “We are living through stressful times,” said Murray. “Students have experienced social and political upheaval, pandemic disruptions, and an increasing focus on school violence nationally. As a result, we’re prioritizing mental health and wellness at Reading. If a student needs extra support, we have resources available.” Students and families can contact their school nurse or visit Reading Health Services for more information.
If anyone has information or concerns about the safety of a student or school, use our anonymous tip line at safe2saypa.org or call 1-844-SAF2SAY. In the case of an emergency, dial 9-1-1.