In light of the recent Thanksgiving holiday, the Mifflin Elementary School community has been rallying to keep one of the things they are most thankful for: a positive role model.
As of Friday, 13 pages of signatures had been collected by parents and staff to keep School Police Officer Willie Miller at the Conrad Street school. The petition is being circulated by Betty Schneider, 51, a noontime aide and bus monitor at Mifflin.
“[Miller] is a wonderful role model for our students and will be sorely missed,” said Schneider, in the petition.
According to Betty Schneider, Miller was originally supposed to be transferred to Southwest Philadelphia in September but enough outcry lead to his retention, until now. Miller has served at Mifflin for seven years. Schneider said Miller is well-liked in the community and by the students.
“He helped my daughter when she was a student here at Mifflin. She was going to get into a fight but Officer Miller took her aside and had a talk with her. He really helped her. She stops by sometimes after work to speak with him,” said Schneider.
Mifflin Principal Leslie Mason declined to comment for this story. According to School District spokesman, Fernando Gallard, Miller’s transfer is not unusual.
“The School Police works much like the regular police force,” said Gallard. “Our Chief, Myron Patterson, and his team figure out where officers are best needed.”
Gallard said that the budget shortfall has had an influence on the School Police Association. The group is overseen by the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of School Safety.
“We have had to eliminate a number of School Police officers,” said Gallard. “Our budget shortfall has necessitated that we cannot keep regular officers at schools all day.”
According to Gallard, the School Police Association has partnered with the Philadelphia Police Department. Efforts have been made to shift the focus from permanent officers to mobile units, either school police or city police, who make regular visits to schools dealing with safety and climate issues at schools.
Despite the School District’s position, many are adamant that Miller’s removal would damage the positive gains made at Mifflin, which has often been portrayed as a troubled institution.
“He is the boulder of Mifflin,” said Schneider. “He is an asset to our school and the community. Our climate at school is good. The staff and children feel safe in his presence in our school. I’m 51 years old. I’m not standing in between two kids if they decide to get into a fight.”