Westminster hires new head of security and campus facilities


     “Safety is everyone’s responsibility,” said Westminster’s new head of security and campus facilities Victor Panchuk. 

     When Panchuk was young, he decided to take a unique route to education. His family is from Russia, and when he was about 15, he got accepted into a student exchange program from Russia to the United States. He lived with a host family growing up in Massachusetts and was granted a student visa. The exchange program was the prize for an academic competition including science, math, and astronomy. 

      “Eight kids, including me, got invited here for one year,” said Panchuk. The exchange program was sponsored by the Russian Academy of Science and NASA, and both his parents are astronomers back in Russia. Panchuk thanks his mother for providing him with the exchange student experience because she wanted him to have great opportunities here and knew he would love to live in America. Panchuk indeed found that he really liked living and learning in America, so when the first year was over, he found a different host family and lived with them for nine years. 

     After graduating high school, Panchuk attended Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a military lifestyle school. 

     “We had the military rules, laws, and uniforms but we didn’t have to go to the service,” said Panchuk. “It was known as an Engineering School but also emphasized discipline, rules, and laws, unlike some other state schools.” 

     Attending Massachusetts Maritime Academy inspired Panchuk to want to work in a leadership position and in the type of school where safety and security was already enforced. 

     “Facilities management and security in a campus setting always run parallel,” said Panchuk. “You can’t have one without the other.”

      Panchuk needed a work visa, and his sponsorship from Aramark, an organization for financial support, helped him get into the facilities management field. With almost 3000 students, faculty, staff, and daily visitors on the Westminster campus every day, Panchuk believes all of the Westminster community is a help to the security team because they all play a part in keeping our community safe. 

     Panchuk’s first job with Aramark for 10 years took him to Chicago, where he worked in facilities management and security. He learned that he enjoyed working with students and directly for schools. 

     “I worked there in several colleges, universities, and K-12 districts,” said Panchuk. 

      His desire to get back to the East Coast and a big Metropolitan area brought him to Atlanta. His first job in Atlanta was at Clark Atlanta University, and he worked there for six years. He found himself in the field of outsourcing facilities management, which means he worked for a company that worked for the facilities at the school. 

     “For example, Flik,” Panchuk said. “They’re not Westminster employees, they’re Flik. Westminster pays Flik and Flik manages their employees. They’re an outsourcing food service.” 

      After Panchuk worked for an outsourcing security service at Clark Atlanta, he realized he wanted to work directly for the school. 

     “I didn’t want to be a part of the big corporation, and that’s what led me to look for different opportunities,” said Panchuk. 

     He ended up at Westminster, and now lives happily with his wife and two boys who both attend Westminster: eighth grader Max and first grader Cameron. Panchuk and his ideals are very well liked in the Westminster community, because throughout all of his life’s work and challenges, the most important lessons he has learned are 

     “Hard work pays off, and discipline,” said Panchuk.

     Associate Dean of Students Brooks Batcheller works closely with Panchuk and sees new security measures already put in place. 

     “He has been great at supporting the academic side, but he also understands teenagers,” said Batcheller. “When we had any sort of looking at student issues, he does a really good job at understanding the student perspective and not just the protocols of what is going on.”

     Panchuk and his team make it so security is present as friends or mentors so that students can be honest with and trust them. With all the new changes on campus, Westminster’s security will become incorporated into daily life so students can always be aware of what is happening. The new student identifications have been added this year to help make sure everyone is accounted for. 

     “The student IDs now help recognize visible students and adults on campus,” said Batcheller. 

     Security is also looking to add scan codes to get into buildings and to know where people are and make sure that everyone is accounted for. Additionally, the bookstore, campus center, and all printers on campus require the student ID badge to use. Sophomore girl Amelia Wright recently got her ID badge, and has mixed opinions on them. 

     “I think that they are annoying in the sense that students have to remember them to be able to buy food and bookstore items,” said Wright. “On the other hand, they provide a higher level of safety for the school and allow no room for people pretending to be someone else.” 

     Cate Stevens, an additional sophomore girl, mentions that she also often forgets to bring hers to get food.

     “They are really convenient for printing but it’s also really annoying because I always forget to bring it to the bookstore,” said sophomore Cate Stevens. 

     Since the ID badges were just distributed a couple weeks ago, students have not gotten in the habit of bringing them to school everyday.

     In addition to the student ID badges, new parking stickers with QR codes that can be scanned by security have been distributed to the juniors and seniors that can park at school. 

     “I like the parking stickers because it makes it so underclassmen can’t park in turner,” said senior William Bollwerk. 

     However, with all the new construction in place, the old parking lot for seniors is now used by faculty, which means the senior boys park at turner, and senior girls and juniors park at the back field. 

     “It takes away our ability to go off campus for lunch because it takes so much longer to walk to turner and then drive all the way around,” said Bollwerk.