The school board said it had considered options.Some parents are upset about the process
NORTHFIELD — The school board last month signed a contract with a private security firm to deploy armed guards on the Northfield Community School campus.
Superintendent Pete Bretons said the service was launched at schools last week and said one officer would be on site at all times while students are attending school.
He said the concept had been discussed more formally in this school year as far back as early spring.
“We knew that school security was a real problem, and we were looking at options and ways to improve it,” said Bretones.
He said hiring a security company was just part of a comprehensive plan to keep students and staff safe.
“Armed guards were part of that plan that we were looking at when we looked at ways to increase safety and security,” Bretones said.
The school board created a request for proposals, but received little response.
Before doing so, they could hire Class III officers through the Northfield Police Department, hire their own armed guards, adopt the K-9 model favored by Atlantic County Administrator Dennis Levinson, or build a company. I considered hiring him.
“We weighed the pros and cons of all four models and decided to go with a security company,” says Bretones.
He said adopting the KD National Security Force would give him maximum flexibility.
“One of the things we really liked about KD is that there are two cops, one at a time,” says Bretones. “On a regular schedule he has two, which greatly guarantees that there will always be officers on campus. We have officers on campus that our campus is familiar with them.”
Bretones said the guards are not police and do not have policing powers, but are there to provide protection. Any incident, he said, is immediately sent to the Northfield Police Department as if there were a Class III officer.
All KD National employees are either retired supervisor-level police officers or military personnel trained in the use of firearms, Bretones said.
“They know what and how they need to do in school,” he said.
Bretones said the contract has been extended through the end of the school year and the district is exploring options for summer school. He said the company would pay him $45 an hour for about eight hours a day, but noted that the borough is still defining when and how long security guards will be present.
“As we gain more experience with placing them in buildings, we may find that we need more,” he said.
Some members of the public objected to the plan, saying the process was rushed and left little time for parents to research and address the issue.
On Friday, October 21, prior to the October 24 meeting, a notice was sent to parents indicating that there was a motion to approve adoption of KD National on the school board meeting agenda.
“Security services include armed school security specialists in schools,” it said.
Melanie Brozoski characterized it as “hastily hired inappropriate private contractors without going through the proper bidding process”.
“KD National Security has shown no evidence or investigation to its board of directors to claim to be the ‘best’ security company,” Brozosky told The Sentinel.
During the meeting, she said state law seeks input from all stakeholders in implementing school security plans, and the process appears to violate that requirement.
Brozosky cites research that found that the presence of school resource officers “does the exact opposite of keeping schools safe,” lowering graduation rates and helping black and brown students , did not reduce incidents of violence while lowering educational outcomes for LGBTQ and disabled students.
“None of what I or any other woman said about pausing to reconsider this deal was taken into account.
She planned to contact the New Jersey Association of School Boards to complain about the lack of a competitive process.
In response to a survey presented by Brozosky, the Bretones stated that it is not clear whether the schools used in the survey were comparable in size, environment, or demographics to Northfield and therefore cannot be considered a direct comparison. said.
“As far as declining academic performance is concerned, we are constantly monitoring the program’s intended goals and side effects,” he said. “If we find that there is a decline in academic performance, we will look at the factors that are contributing to it.
Craig D. Schenk/ sentinel staff