ST. ALBANS — BFA-St. Albans has added two officers to its school safety team.
Joining William Westen as school safety officers are Michael Mazzaferro and Dennis Ward. The three-member team is in charge of student and staff safety and security. This includes checking doors, vetting who comes in and out of the building and de-escalating stressful situations.
"[We may] look like we’re just making sure everybody’s going to class, but that’s only one of the many things that we are doing," Mazzaferro said.
Both Ward and Mazzaferro have past experience that has helped them in their current role at BFA-St. Albans. Ward is a recently-retired police officer from the South Burlington Police Department. He also worked in the Youth Services Unit for four years and said his former position allowed him to spend time with students on a daily basis, so it was a natural transition to his current job.
Mazzaferro worked as a correctional officer for 16 years, part of that time as a sergeant at a maximum security facility. While a high school is quite different from a security facility, Mazzaferro said his past experience taught him how to de-escalate stressful situations without using force, a skill that allows him to protect students and staff at BFA.
Their job also extends beyond security. Ward said making connections with the students is one of their major responsibilities.
“I like to say good morning on a daily basis, then overtime adding to that conversation,” he said.
Mazzaferro also enjoys interacting with the students at BFA. At his previous job, he was interacting with people who made mistakes that resulted in their incarceration. But here, he said that he can have a “positive influence on [students], and maybe even persuade them from making poor decisions…There’s hope here.”
Ward said his overall experience at BFA so far has been positive.
“We’ve gotten positive feedback so far. I think that people appreciate the work that we do here,” Ward said.
Mazzaferro agreed, saying he “hope[s] to continue to support students and teachers while getting to know every single one of them.”