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Palm Beach County Needs More School Crossing Guards: 30 More People Sought for Part-Time Jobs

November 26, 2007

By Rhonda J. Miller, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Nov. 26–School crossing guards step out into notoriously nasty South Florida traffic armed with police department training, yellow-green neon vests and gloves, and their dedication to getting Palm Beach County students safely across the street.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has 308 guards, and there’s always a need for substitutes, said Shelley Orben, supervisor for the school safety division of the Sheriff’s Office. Sometimes an additional guard is needed at busy intersections.

The Sheriff’s Office would like to hire 30 more crossing guards, particularly for Boca Raton, Wellington, Jupiter, Pahokee and Belle Glade.

“I just don’t have a lot of people in those areas looking for part-time jobs,” Orben said of the position, which starts at $31.71 a day for a minimum of three hours, which doubles if a guard covers elementary and middle school posts, as many do.

The Sheriff’s Office trains and hires crossing guards in unincorporated areas of the county. Cities hire guards for schools within their limits. Boca Raton, for instance, has 33 crossing guards, 17 of them covering two posts, city police department spokesman Sgt. Jeff Kelly said. Boca Raton crossing guards earn $9.11 an hour. Some municipalities, including Wellington, contract with the Sheriff’s Office or private agencies.

Despite scorching sun, badly behaved drivers and thunderstorms, many crossing guards say the job suits them perfectly.

“It’s very convenient. My husband goes to work early, and I take the kids,” said Cheryl Tenore, 35, who lives in Wellington and starts her first crossing guard post at 7:05 a.m. at Paddock Drive and Big Blue Trace for Wellington Elementary School. Tenore crosses her younger son, Mark, a fourth-grader at the school.

Her second post is from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at Wellington Landings Middle School, where she crosses her older son, Matthew, an eighth-grader, when he walks to school with a friend.

“I know where my kids are, and they know where I am,” said Tenore, a crossing guard for five years. All of the Tenores’ relatives are out-of-state, so it works out well for her to have evenings and summers off with her children.

But it’s a job that requires her to always be on alert.

“It’s not easy. You have to watch traffic. Cars blow through the lights. They don’t obey the speed limits,” Tenore said. “I’ve had a couple of close calls. Some people are very impatient.”

Guards are required to complete eight hours of training — six in the classroom and two in the field. Then they observe at their post with a trainer, before they take it over.

“Even with the fluorescent green gloves and green vest, sometimes the drivers don’t see us,” Tenore said. If a car doesn’t stop, the guard blows the whistle until it does.

“Sometimes people get offended when we point our fingers at them, but we’ve been trained. We’re very serious,” she said. “You just stand your ground and make sure the kids come first.”

Once it’s safe, guards tell the students: “Search and walk.” That’s an extra precaution, so the children look again in all directions before they step into the crosswalk.

Crossing guards stepped a bit more into public view at the beginning of the school year, when school transportation officials canceled some bus routes. The changes were made after a review showed that a few communities were less than 2 miles from school. Two of the canceled buses were in Boca Raton, from the Pheasant Walk neighborhood to Calusa Elementary and from Dixie Manor to Boca Raton Middle School.

The adjustments are representative of school crossing situations that can occur countywide.

School transportation director Yevola Falana said at the time that a list of canceled buses district-wide was not availableResidents interested in applying must be at least 18 and must clear a criminal background check. For those who are hired, advantages such as flexibility usually win them over, and they learn to handle the challenges.

Rhonda J. Miller can be reached at rjmiller@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6605.

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