JONESBORO — Tensions rose Monday night as board members split their votes on an “emergency school security” contract.
School board member Alieka Anderson appealed to her colleagues before voting for the nearly $250,000 measure to offset the sheriff’s reduction in school security.
“Board, we need to come up with something and we need to do it fast,” said Anderson. “We need somebody to take care of our children and we need someone to take care our children now.”
The Clayton County Board of Education approved a contract with Atlanta-based Intellectual Concepts LLC at its work session Monday. Members Mark Christmas, Michael King and Charlton Bivins voted against the measure, and member Jessie Goree abstained.
Superintendent Luvenia Jackson recommended the contract, saying the agreement was an effort to bridge a widening gap in school security.
Jackson said the sheriff’s office has not been fulfilling its contract to provide schools with an adequate number of school resource officers since Sheriff Victor Hill returned to office in January
She said deputy presence at school campuses has diminished to about one officer for every four schools.
“That is unacceptable,” said Jackson.
Jackson expects the district will have to find alternative security beginning in the fall, if the sheriff’s office decides not to renew its agreement with the board. She said the reduced presence at schools over the past several weeks is the first indication.
Conversely, she said, the district will not have to pay for officers who are not on duty.
“We don’t pay for what we don’t get,” she said.
Bivins protested the mid-year reduction in security.
“He [Hill] needs to be called on the carpet for that,” said Bivins.
But Jackson disagreed.
“We cannot tell the sheriff where to put his people,” she said.
The Clayton News Daily reached out to the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office for a response. None was given as of Tuesday afternoon.
Jackson said the Intellectual Concepts contract provides 38 additional full-time security officers through the end of the school year.
She said the district’s security personnel is available during the school day and during special school events and sports activities.
“We already have campus security personnel,” she said. “[But] we don’t have personnel to do all of this.”
School officials put out an emergency bid this month to five vendors and three responded with quotes. Intellectual Concepts was the low bid at $247,000 for a 10-week contract.
Goree said she was concerned with the wording in the memorandum of understanding in which the new security officers would not be allowed to participate in lunchroom duties but are asked to patrol the cafeteria area. She also said she wanted other law enforcement jurisdictions involved in the bidding process.
Goree fired off against the sheriff’s decision to reduce the district’s school resource officers.
“This has been a thorn in my side when it comes to SROs [school resource officers],” said Goree. “I’m kind of pro our own security force.”
Bivins opposed the Intellectual Concepts contract. He pointed out the company is known mainly for its work in information technology and not school security.
“I want sworn officers,” said Bivins. “I’m a sworn officer. And I don’t see this being physically possible.”
He said he was bothered by the costs of paying an outside agency to provide school security. He said he wants to be sure the costs are justified.
“We have gone through this before as a district,” said Jackson, referencing how the district pursued registered nurses for its school nurses program.
She said that — because nurses could work shorter days and get weekends and summers off — the district was able to hire nurses at a prorated cost.
“This is not with animosity,” said Jackson. “This is about the manpower that we need [and] the systems that we need.”