Two years ago, the Wilton school district decided to add a position called ‘Safe School Climate Coordinator.’ At the time, the position was called a ‘Threat Assessment Coordinator,’ and it was created on the recommendation of the Wilton Security Task Force (WSTF) and with the consultation of noted forensic school psychiatrist Dr. David Bernstein.

However, within the last year that administrators started looking for a candidate, the district has not been able to fill the position.

At last night’s Board of Education meeting, superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith explained why the district has had a difficult time finding the right candidate, telling board members that as the job description was originally written, it was too narrow–candidates needed to be state certified to teach in CT schools–and didn’t offer a salary commensurate with the job requirements. [He also noted that the position was proposed and created before he started working in Wilton.]

“My personal opinion is, this is going to be a very pivotal position once we have the right person in it,” he said.

In an effort to intensify the search and find the right candidate for the job, school officials have revised the job description.

“We needed to clarify the purpose, and we also broadened the credentials. Before, we were looking for a licensed school psychologist or a licensed school social worker. Those qualifications don’t necessarily capture the kind of forensic work that’s needed to do the deep threat assessment that we’re looking for,” Smith said, explaining that they will now also consider licensed clinical psychologists and licensed social workers who do not have school certification.

Assistant superintendent Ann Paul helped the board members understand why the change in qualification was a good one.

“There are clinicians who are licensed in CT, and who don’t necessarily have their school certification. They might be working in clinics, in private practice, in hospitals, group homes. They may not have worked in a public school setting, so they wouldn’t have that school certification. What the group discussed was really strong clinical skills, so this would give us a wider, deeper pool to draw from,” she said, adding,”Experience with the age group is extremely important–we want people who have worked with school-aged children, not just an adult population.”

In addition, the compensation level was increased, to be “more in line with teacher salaries,” Smith explained. The original salary was started at $85,000, but now the salary range is $100,000-$200,000, depending on credentials and experience.

“We’re going to repost after this evening and it’s our hope that we will widen the net and get a deeper pool, and be able to have someone in place here in the fall,” Smith said.

BoE member Lory Rothstein, who helped with the change in the job description, added, “The list of qualifications and experience in the previous job description, there were 15 or more. With Dr. Bernstein’s guidance we were able to really narrow them down to the critical few things that we really want this person to have. That will make the job description more clear.”

Smith underscored how Wilton is the first district in the region to create this kind of position.

“This is a very unique position, there’s no other like it that we know of in any other school system, at least hear in CT. So it speaks to the values of this community and what they desire for their students and their schools. It’s something to celebrate.”