City students and teachers are being put at risk as a result of a $2.6 million security budget cut that will reduce the district’s security force by 86.5 security officers, said James Smith, director of security at the Paterson Public Schools on Wednesday night.
“These cuts represent an extremely dangerous situation for our schools,” Smith told the school board and the superintendent at their regular meeting last night. “Staff and students are being placed in jeopardy.”
Smith said the security force was already barebones with 275.5 security officers. Cuts reduces the force by 31-percent, said Smith, at a time when violence is flaring up throughout the city.
State-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans said he has had talks with security directors at Jersey City and Newark schools to find ways to provide for the district’s security needs. He said he is allowing school principals to cut non-instructional staff members for security officers at their schools.
It’s not clear how many security officers can be restored through Evan’s plan given that schools have had to cut large chunks of their budgets due to financial pressures.
“We’re in sorry shape,” said Smith. “Without an infusion of money, we can change a guard here and there, but it’s the equivalent of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
The director said the cuts have halted a surveillance camera initiative that was being run at the schools as well.
Smith said the cuts in security is being spread across all the district schools. He said principals have expressed deep concerns about the security reductions. “I received a flood of emails from principals with some saying they couldn’t sleep at night and most giving detailed reasons why there schools were being placed at risk,” he said.
School board president Christopher Irving said security is a “paramount issue” in the school district. He asked Evans whether principals have contacted the superintendent’s office about the issue.
Evans said three principals contacted him about the security reductions.
The school board will hold a special meeting to discuss the security sometime next week, said board members.