Also: School district plans return to in-person board meetings and workshops
The Flagler County School Board at its May 19 meeting voted unanimously to approve a $851,489 contract with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services such as School Resource Deputies at the district's schools, but not without commenting that the high cost of the law enforcement agency has them considering other options.
"An increase to this contract every single year is just not sustainable. … We really have no choice but to begin to look at alternatives."
— COLLEEN CONKLIN, School Board member
"I won't lie; I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to sharpen the pencils a little bit more and get down to what our Safe School allocation was," board member Colleen Conklin said, referring to the funding provided to districts by the state for safety and law enforcement protection. "An increase to this contract every single year is just not sustainable. … We really have no choice but to begin to look at alternatives."
Conklin and other board members had first considered the proposed contract with the Sheriff's Office in a workshop two weeks prior, noting that it was paying more this year for the same service and covering raises for deputies that exceeded the raises the district has been able to give its own staff members.
Meanwhile, the district had also been paying for time-and-a-half overtime for deputies whenever they were called away by the Sheriff's Office for training or other situations outside the district's control.
Board members during the workshop requested that district staff and the FCSO revise the way the contract deals with overtime.
That occurred: The contract approved at the May 19 meeting establishes a flat $25 per hour fee for overtime, to be split equally between the school district and the Sheriff's Office.
"I know that this will save us a pretty good chunk, and the Sheriff’s Office has skin in the game with overtime, so there should be some additional oversight in that regard," board member Andy Dance said at the May 19 meeting.
But, Dance added, "I would like to see us start almost immediately with negotiations for the next contract. ... I’d like to look at options for the next year on how to reduce costs and have an ongoing dialogue."
Board Chairwoman Janet McDonald, in the previous workshop, had raised the possibility of using school guardians — school staff members formally trained and armed to respond to incidents like shootings — instead of or as a supplement to school resource deputies. She did so again May 19.
"I still feel that we need to seriously look at ways to be a little bit more creative with our personnel," she said.
Conklin suggested the board hold an executive session to discuss its security options, and McDonald agreed.
"I appreciate having an executive session where we can look to redesign what we’re doing, so we can not only have a multiple-year contract, but have a working environment that doesn’t take all of our funds," McDonald said.
In-person meetings to resume for June 2 workshop, Tager's last
The Flagler County School Board expects to resume in-person board meetings and workshops at the county's Government Services Building on June 2, School Board Attorney Kristy Gavin said during the May 19 board meeting.
The board's June 2 workshop will also be the last board meeting or workshop for Superintendent James Tager, who is retiring, and the board expects to take some time at the workshop to celebrate his accomplishments.
The meetings will have to comply with social distancing requirements.
"It is our hope that we will be in Phase II when we are meeting on June 2, so that we will be at least able to have 50 people in the board room, with social distancing appropriately," Gavin said.
District OKs radio system upgrades
Flagler Schools will spend $318,055 — money brought in by the district's half-penny sales tax — in a one-time equipment fee to pay for new Motorola emergency radio communications equipment in line with Flagler County Emergency Management's 800 MHz system.
School Board members approved the expenditure unanimously at the May 19 board meeting.
It covers several consoles, repeaters, and 75 portable radios and chargers, which will be programmed and maintained by the county government.
The district will also pay a $60 per unit per year subscriber fee.