Photo by Heather Middleton
By Jeylin White
The Clayton County Board of Education (BOE) approved a $1.2 million contract with the Clayton County Sheriff's Office on Monday, after weeks of public hearings and community members raising questions about the legality of the contract.
With School Superintendent Edmond Healtley's recommendation, board members voted 6-2 to approve the contract, to provide security in all Clayton County public schools.
Board members Jessie Goree and Trinia Garrett voted against the measure, while Michael King abstained from the vote, citing a pending action against the Sheriff's Office involving one of his clients.
Goree said the board needed to have more time to consider the contract due to a competitive bid process. "That [bid process] information should have been provided for us at the last work session," she said. "Prior to the vote we did not receive the information until we sat down here today at 6 p.m."
"When you are making a decision regarding budgetary items, such as a million dollar contract you need to at least be able to sit down and read the information to compare," she said. "Even though the superintendent is the person who makes the recommendation, no one on this board had seen that information until they came in here tonight."
Board member Charlton Bivins said the board was aware of the contract, and said the board received the history of the SRO three or four months ago.
In previous meetings Heatley responded to questions about the contract with the Sheriff's Office, saying the contract was not a secret, and that the board was aware of it. "We wanted more security at the high schools, as well as the middle schools," he said. "And this year, we wanted one organization to do it all."
"We've done something [we've] never done before," said Bivins, "and put it out for bid, so we have done everything by the number and by the book," he said. "People are still just a little jittery about accepting what's been there, and what is in reality absolutely needed."
Members of the community also raised questions about a $1.2 million contract with the sheriff's office to provide security officers at schools. During public input, one resident said that the officers assigned to the schools were never trained properly.
However, board Member Charlton Bivins said there is training offered to officers before entering in the schools. "There is a thing called SRO training," he said, "and It's a certified training, but any and all law enforcement are trained to deal with any and all walks of life, all types of people, ages and age groups." He said all law enforcement will be trained before they enter into the school year, "If we can ever get them ... in place," he said, "It will kick off during the summer months."
Another resident who shared concerns during public input, brought up an incident that occurred at Eddie White Academy, when an officer for the Clayton Sheriff's Office failed to stop the strip searches of four students. Bivins said the sheriffs office should not be held "captive" for one officer's decision. "One officer made a bad decision," he said, "he was disciplined for it and it should not have happened."
However, despite public concern over the contract, board chairperson Pam Adamson said she feels there have been very few complaints from members of the community over the contract agreement with the Sheriff's Office.
In other business the board approved a $3.6 million contract with Rix Contractor, Inc. for the remodeling of the Performing Arts Center. School officials say the job should be completed by next spring.