Parker Junior High School will be adding two unarmed security officers onto its staff as part of Flossmoor District 161’s plan to enhance the school’s safety.
The school board Monday approved a contract for $73,008 from U.S. Security Associates. The Georgia-based company will provide the staffing of one security guard and one supervisor, with estimated annual wages of $34,128 and $38,880, respectively.
With 927 students, Parker is the district’s largest school. It is currently the only building with security guards.
Superintendent Dana Smith said the decision to hire a professional security company stemmed from the need for consistency.
Parker’s current security staff consists of retired public safety personnel and one state trooper. Smith said the new hires will be full-time employees whose professional training is security.
“There’s no one in District 161 that has a security background, so as we’re planning out how to keep Parker safe and how to keep our other buildings safe, it just made sense at the end of the day to go with a vendor that understands school security,” Smith said.
The U.S. Security Associates staff are set to start right away, and the other security guards will end their work with Parker in October, he said. All schools will continue to have school support aides who provide assistance such as hallway and lunchroom supervision.
The new security officers will also provide their services during after-school activities, such as basketball and soccer games, Smith said.
The district also received a bid from Blue Line Security Solutions for about $2,000 less, but U.S. Security Associates has experience in school settings and more closely matched the district’s needs, Smith said.
“They have a nice background,” he said. “Especially as I checked the references, I feel good about their ability to work with us, to work with our administrators and teachers and add to the safety of our schools.”
Smith said administrators have had initial conversations about hiring security guards for other District 161 schools, and bringing U.S. Security Associates to Parker will help in determining whether that is the right direction.
“If we have a really good experience with this group, we’ll maybe talk about the elementaries because we may want to add security guards,” he said. “It’s not cheap, but if it’s between safety and having a situation that’s unsafe in our buildings, we’ll spend this money all day. It’s good money to spend to make sure we’re doing it the right way.”
In other news, the board approved a budget for the 2018-19 school year.
The budget plans for about $35.8 million in revenue and $35.2 million in expenses, which leaves the district with an operating budget surplus of nearly $700,000. The budget also has an overall deficit of about $3.3 million after summer 2018 construction projects, including air conditioning systems and a new science lab.
The board was scheduled to have a discussion about the property tax levy for the next fiscal year, which will be voted on in December, but the discussion was postponed because board members Merle Huckabee and Stephen Paredes were absent.