I commend our school board for prioritizing the safety of our elementary school-aged children. However, I am not fully convinced that hiring an independent security firm was the right answer.
Why the rush to hire this outside firm? Within one month it went from an idea from Superintendent Rick Mills to an item that was placed on the consent agenda.
It took less than one week for a committee to start and end the bid process and name Sarasota Security Patrol as our company of choice.
No face-to-face interviews were done with the top three companies considered.
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There is also speculation as to whether the bid process was legitimate or if SSP was already hired before it ever started.
Put all the speculation aside and focus on the security aspect itself. SSP has promised the school board that the armed security guards (for elementary schools) will be ex-military and retired law enforcement officers.
What type of background checks, psychological testing (if any), and training will these ARMED guards have. Will they have training on how to handle children properly?
Have they been checked against the sexual predator/offender registry? Will the guards have school assignments or will there be a different face every day?
These are legitimate concerns that a lot of parents have.
This decision makes Manatee County the first school district in the state of Florida to hire an independent armed security firm.
Something this important -- that involves the safety of our children -- should never have been put on the consent agenda in the first place and not open to public discussion. Were the right questions asked?
We now have a three-year contract with SSP at the end cost of $3 million. Hopefully, it will not end up costing us a whole lot more.