The school district reached a “consensus” among high ranking administrators to restore 11 security officers after cutting 86 which raised alarm the district may be putting student and staff safety at risk.
State-appointed district superintendent Donnie Evans on Wednesday night said three assistant superintendents and the district’s security director met to discuss the security situation. He said the parties reached a “consensus” to restore 11 security officers by shifting money from elsewhere in the budget.
“Is that enough to fill the need?” asked school board president Christopher Irving. He wanted to know where the eleven security officers would be stationed.
Evans said there’s a chart that shows where the 11 would be assigned. However, that chart was not available on Wednesday night at the workshop meeting cutting short discussion on the subject.
“We need to know where the 11 are going,” said the board president. “It’s still going to leave a gaping hole in our school security.”
James Smith, who is the director of security at the Paterson Public Schools, disagreed with the “consensus” decision. “I’m in total disagreement with it,” he said. “I didn’t reach consensus with them.”
Smith has said the 31-percent reduction in security to save $2.6 million puts staff members and students in jeopardy.
“I don’t want to put peoples’ safety at jeopardy,” said board member Jonathan Hodges. Seeing visible disagreement between the superintendent and the security director, Hodges said the superintendent and his staff have to work out the details of the security plan before the school board holds a discussion.
Board member Lilisa Mimms concurred with Hodges. She said the superintendent and his team have to sort out a plan before presenting to the board.
The board members issued mixed messages telling the security director to vocalize his concerns and at the same wishing to see no disagreement between the superintendent and his staff.
“He knows more about security than all of us,” said board member Errol Kerr of Smith. “His knowledge weighs more on this issue than other folks.”
Board member Oshin Castillo disagreed with postponing the discussion to a later meeting. “School has already started. What are we doing with the security that’s there? Are we lacking security? Do we have enough? That’s information we should have now. How long can we table certain situations?”
The board agreed to hold a special meeting to discuss the issue.
Smith said there are two vice-principals retiring at John F. Kennedy and Eastside High Schools whose salaries could fund the hiring of 14 security officers.
Hodges indicated it may not be wise to leave vice-principal posts vacant to hire security officers. Board members said the district is placed in this situation due to governor Chris Christie’s underfunding of the district.
“I understand the finance part of it, but I just refuse to put our kids in a situation that is potentially dangerous,” said Kerr. “I have some kids in the system. I wouldn’t want, because of a dollar, any of them to get hurt.”
Irving said he is “extremely nervous” about the security situation after gunfire on Market Street forced the district to cut short football practice at Bauerle Field on Monday afternoon.