Supes call for schools spending oversight

Published 8:08 pm Tuesday, September 25, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

At least one Isle of Wight County supervisor has lost confidence in schools superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton and the School Board’s plan to purchase security devices for the division and the Board now plans to oversee future spending on those items.  

And putting Thornton in charge of the school safety task force “scares” another supervisor.

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The issue of spending $64,658 on door barricades that have been disabled on the request of the fire marshal was the last topic of discussion during Thursday’s Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors meeting. 

The Board resolution to oversee spending was to take effect immediately, and the Board also plans to “restart” the school safety task force. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“I’ve lost confidence in this,” said Windsor Supervisor Joel Acree about the plan proposed in March to spend $846,944 on school security devices in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that left 17 dead.

Newport District Supervisor William McCarty said the school division came to the Board on the heels of a tragic event, but to find out that, “opps, it’s not permitted. It is a little of a red flag.” 

As for purchasing more security devices — the next on the list being a $240,000 one-button style alarm system for which a request for proposals has been issued — Carrsville Supervisor Don Rosie said, “We need good vetting … we need honest information.”

Acree was concerned that any further delays could be a problem.

“Time may be of the essence,” he said. 

Grice wants all RFP’s issued on future security devices to be coordinated with the county’s emergency services department to prevent any future problems, such as those experienced with the door barricades. 

Going forward, any money spent by the schools on this needs to come to the Board of Supervisors for approval, said Grice. 

Meanwhile, Carrsville Supervisor Don Rosie said it “scares” him to make Thornton in charge of the school safety task force that was also assembled earlier this year.

“It’s too narrow if he’s in charge of it,” said Rosie. 

Efforts to reach Rosie for further elaboration were unsuccessful. 

Grice called for the school security task force to “restart,” and wants it to bring a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.  

The school security task force includes school and county officials, law enforcement and emergency personnel, court officials and private citizens. 

Board Chairman Rudolph Jefferson said part of the problem is with the School Board.

In a phone interview Monday, Jefferson said that at a task force meeting, Thornton had indicated that anything that takes place in the schools is his responsibility, but Jefferson thinks the responsibility of what goes on in the schools and with the task force lies with the School Board. 

In response, Thornton said, “We will continue to communicate with the Board of Supervisors through our already established channels.”

School Board Chairperson Vicky Hulick also responded.

 “The School Board works diligently with the superintendent to ensure a good education and security for our students. We hope to continue working in a positive way with the Board of Supervisors,” she said.

The school security task force will be a topic of discussion at the Oct. 4 Board of Supervisors work session.  {/mprestriction}