“We treat everyone, from kindergarten on up, with respect,” says Joseph Perchetti, Supervisor of Security for the Radnor, Penn., Public School District. “They are our customers, and their taxes pay our salaries. We go the extra mile to make sure they are secure and to ensure that they can focus on education.”
The Radnor School District is in the heart of the “Main Line,” a suburban area outside of Philadelphia historically named after the train line built in the 19th century from the city through the area. The district is home to more than 3,600 students and 1,000 employees across seven facilities and 181 acres.
“My focus, as a leader, is to be an ambassador for security,” he says. “It is very rewarding to be in the schools and talk with the students, teachers and parents. Being proactive identifies risks. Most rewarding is to go to work every day with tomorrow’s leaders and have a customer service mindset.”
While security is about securing, Joe drills the service notion consistently into his officers. “We got a call one night that a student’s musical instrument was locked in the band room and they needed it to rehearse. We met the parent, opened the room and enabled the student to practice. Our job is to enable education in the most secure manner possible. It is not to hinder education.”
A decorated U.S. Army veteran, Joe was honorably discharged after Desert Storm in 1991. After getting married and settling into the area he had the opportunity to become a part-time high school security officer. A year later he became the Supervisor and has held the top position for 20 years.
Joe’s thoughts on leadership follow Colin Powell who once said, “Leadership is about solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”
Naming his father as his mentor, Joe notes, “His military mind, dedication to superiors, subordinates and equals greatly influenced me. And I believe our greatest contribution to every student, staff member, parent and community member is the availability of services from our security department.” As a result, he has maintained an impeccable on-call 24-hour status to the community since 1992.
“Maintaining an open environment is challenging, and we focus on visitor and facility management and utilize resources such as the National Incident Management System to best manage the environment.” Asked about policy changes as a result of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, Joe explains, “This community is very mindful of children being away at school during the day. This is a very active educational community, and concern was expressed. We held multiple open meetings to discuss which actions to take and how the children were doing. But the topic was not completely about security, it was about serving the communities children.”
At the same time, he and his staff have worked to address vulnerabilities by scheduling active shooter programs with the local police. The district also hired a professional video firm to create a virtual tour of their facilities as an incident response resource. “The district does not measure our value on expenditures or budget performance alone,” he says. “The focus is on the daily interaction to assist the community. That personal contact is also used to build situational awareness and proactively mitigate risks.”
“Our high school is often open from 5:30 in the morning through 10:30 at night. We may have swim practice before school and a band rehearsal at night. This actually creates more security and vigilance for the community because the faculty, parents and students are active.”
The district recently added an emergency line for the community to report threats or incidents, but more as a customer service tool to get help with any issues, such as that instrument locked in the band room.
“Security is everyone’s responsibility and equally important to an organization’s overall goals and planning,” Joe says. “When the CEO or other leader recognizes that contribution, then security goes to the receiving end of appreciation and thanks for assisting people and making a positive difference. It is highly rewarding to work with great educators in a wonderful community. When we assist with a ceremony or community service project, the value is apparent.”
Joseph enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons, traveling, camping, kayaking, volunteering, playing ice hockey and doing coursework through FEMA.
- Annual budget: $82 Million
- Security Budget: $452,000
- Disorderly Conduct
- Theft of Personal and School Property
- Asset Protection/Loss Prevention (for Resale)
- Enterprise Resilience
- Physical/Asset Protection (Not for Resale)
- Workforce Protection