NEW CANAAN—Less than two months after the horrific school shooting in Newtown—a slightly larger town about 30 miles north of New Canaan—district officials here are requesting taxpayer funds to hire trained security officials at five public schools.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Kolek said during a Board of Selectmen meeting Thursday that the district has undergone a deep analysis of its security needs and needs to hire contractors from a private firm to oversee entrances and campuses at public schools—one at each elementary school and two at Saxe Middle School. A New Canaan police officer already works out of the high school as a “school resource officer.”
“We very much believe that we need at that front door, where we greet our guests and screen our guests, someone who is trained in security,” Kolek said during the meeting, held at the New Canaan Police Department—temporary headquarters for municipal leadership while Town Hall undergoes renovation.
“We do not believe [relying on] volunteers or even free teachers or core aides [as security] is in the interest [of students, faculty and staff],” Kolek added.
The comments came as the district requested funds for next fiscal year (see attached PDF)—at about $80 million, the schools allocation would come to approximately two-thirds of the total taxpayer contribution.
More than 20 residents attended the mid-morning meeting. Though the district’s proposed budget doesn’t require approval from the Board of Selectmen by charter—rather, it goes with other department requests to the finance board and Town Council—the three-person panel for several years has weighed in at an early stage to help steer the process.
Kolek painted a picture of a school system whose spending has been relatively flat while the district itself has grown—in student enrollment as well as total square footage in its buildings—and now requires investment to maintain high standards and comply with state and federal mandates. The operating budget request—a 5.7 percent increase—is high relative to other town departments.
Selectman Nick Williams, a former Board of Education chairman, said selectmen would work with the district over the next several weeks to see whether it’s possible to bring the number down.
It isn’t clear whether or how the budget process will affect the district’s pursuit of campus monitors. Kolek said that at 40 hours per week and 10 months, each security official would cost about $45,000—$225,000 total.
“We are asking for this year to have a special appropriation” to hire contracted security to address school needs now, Kolek said, and to look at the work now as a pilot program for the future.
Kolek said that the schools also are eyeing an ID scanner system that is required of guests at schools when they register.