Greater Johnstown creates school police officer positions; Penna rejoins football program as assistant coach

Jan. 18—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Greater Johnstown School District will soon be posting vacancies in two new contractual positions — school police officers.

The school board created a school police officer roles at the high school and middle school during Wednesday's meeting, which was rescheduled from Jan. 9 due to weather conditions.

"The board (and) the admin team is excited about it and how the new positions can be developed to keep our students and staff safe and secure," Greater Johnstown Director of Safety and Security and Assistant to the superintendent Michael Dadey said.

For years, the district has partnered with the Johnstown Police Department for school resource officers, which are employed by the department but work at the schools, and will continue to do so but is expanding its offerings.

Dadey said city police have recently experienced staffing issues and that's part of why Greater Johnstown is exploring SPO positions, which will work directly for the district but carry the same authority as an SRO.

Moving forward, security guards will continue to be staffed throughout Greater Johnstown's three buildings as well as a remaining school resource officer through JPD.

Additional personnel matters handled during the meeting included the hirings of a variety of football coaches for a one-year term — three varsity assistant coaches, a junior high head coach and two junior high assistants for football.

Tony Penna Jr., the former varsity football head coach at Greater Johnstown, was named as one of the varsity assistants and is thrilled to be back.

He coached at the high school from 2010 to 2018 before stepping away, he said.

Then, starting during the 2019-20 school year, he took an opportunity to coach football at Conemaugh Township Area High School, where he coached until 2021-22 before taking another break.

Penna then was hired back at Greater Johnstown to serve as a behavioral specialist at the high school last October and now is back on the coaching staff.

"The kids at Johnstown are my absolute first love," he said.

The more he worked with the students the more he missed coaching, Penna noted, and when this opportunity came up, he applied.

Now, he'll get to coach with some of the students who once played for him, which he's excited about.

Penna said he and the others are "100% in" on turning around the Greater Johnstown football program and fully support head coach Antwuan Reed.

Superintendent Amy Arcurio said the district typically hires assistant football coaches in the spring but wanted to get a head start this year, which is why the matter was on January's agenda.

She said the group is excited to have Penna back coaching.

Other hires made Wednesday included Brian Hasselbauer as the assistant director of physical plant; Colleen Albright as the K-12 art teacher at the middle school; and Dawn Dunbar as the homebound teacher.

The group also approved a handful of retirements and resignations.