Friday, March 01, 2013
Landon Makes ‘Urgent’ Appeal for School Security Study
Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon, under criticism for selecting a firm for a $100,000 school security audit without police input or considering other potential vendors, today sent an “urgent” message to parents appealing for their support of the appropriation at next week’s meeting of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM).
Elliott Landon: RTM approval “not assured.” Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
In an email with the subject heading “URGENT MESSAGE: Will Our Schools Be Secure?,” Landon told parents that approval of the funding “is not assured” and that if they are interested in the outcome of “this critical vote,” they should attend the meeting or email RTM members in support of the measure.
Landon’s message—his second email in three days to parents about the RTM vote—came hours after the request failed to gain majority support Thursday night from three key RTM committees. (See WestportNow Feb. 28, 2013)
In his message, Landon made no mention of the criticism about the selection process or the fact that police were not involved.
Although he had promised the Board of Finance to request a revised proposal from the Kroll Advisory security firm that made the town and its emergency responders an equal partner in the study, no revised proposal has been made public.
Meanwhile, a number of parents emailed RTM members urging more study before the appropriation is approved.
“Though a knee jerk reaction to the Sandy Hook violence might lead one to hire a team to evaluate our schools’ safety level, no holds barred, I would suggest you ask yourselves what will be gained through this evaluation?,” said Jill Greenberg in an email distributed to RTM members. “And will the information obtained direct you to a safer school community?”
Added Maureen Quirk, the parent of a Staples High School student: “The speedy decision made by Mr. Landon to initially spend $50,000 followed by the change to $100,000 for a security study doesn’t seem to have been done in a thoughtful manner. To have not included the Westport Police Chief until after he made a decision is evidence of a lack of a thoughtful decision process.
“I have read that some other towns in Connecticut are starting their review by having their local police force study the security of the local schools. Why can’t we take this first step and use our knowledgeable police force before engaging a consultant?”
A third parent, Andrea Terrillion, said she has been “scratching my head over the decision-making process” and “was absolutely shocked when the media coverage indicated that the Police Chief had not been front and center (let alone consulted) in the security audit vendor selection process.”
She noted that the Kroll security firm’s client list in the K-12 area “does not support the apparent presumption that they are the best in the business and the only game in town. I would not presume that security experience in Afghanistan and Iraq and even the Detroit Public Schools, translates to the ‘best qualified’ organization to audit security at the Westport Public Schools.”
Here is the text of Landon’s message today:
“Dear Members of the Westport School Community:
“Since the tragedy in Sandy Hook, the Board of Education has taken several steps to enhance our school security. In order to make potentially larger-scale changes, the Board is seeking funding for a leading school security consultant to make comprehensive, impactful recommendations for our district. The Board of Finance has approved $100,000 for hiring Kroll Advisory, and on Tuesday night, the final vote of approval or disapproval will be done by the RTM, Westport’s town council.
Comments: Comment Policy
Is Elliott Landon saying our children and teachers are not safe right now? He is coming across as worried and a bully.
Do the residents of Westport know that a study was conducted for $35,000 before? What happened to thay study which was done just 4-5 years ago? What did that firm say we should do? Why did we not get a bid from the original company? Why is Landon forcing the new firm? Could we have used their previous report and experience? Would we save money? Is this new study even necessary?
This is starting to look troubling to me.
Deep breath all Let’s look at this intelligently
Going to a boutique NYC firm does not guarantee the best results Going out without an RFP is not done in any other situation 100K could buy many studies from many good firms or 3-4 former Westport officers on a consult basis each in a school as a professional presence that knows the turf
You think as a community we could figure it out, and by the way no matter what, irrational things occur, we can only try our best to protect all.
Come on stop the fear mongering, let’s do this right, it’s not the money, we all love our children and hold them dear. We need to make an intelligent exercise and do it fiscally sane.
And by the way the State of CT government did a rather extensive expensive exercise weeks ago that was to apply to all CT towns. Has anyone looked at what was done and the recommendations ?
Please breathe and do not jump immediatly when persons tell you it must be done and it must be done now.
In light of the recent tragedies at Sandy Hook and other schools throughout our country, it would be irresponsible for any school district not to review and update its school facility safeguards and procedures. That being said, it is inexplicable that the proposed review is not being pursued in a more deliberative manner. First, Dr. Landon failed to include our own law enforcement officials who have the most intimate knowledge of our schools and our community. Second, he failed to determine which security firms ( of which there are more than a few) have particular expertise in securing premises such as our schools. In Kroll, he selected a company with an outstanding reputation, but not one which is, in any way relevant to our needs, unique. In fact, throughout the New York metropolitan area, there are a number of highly qualified firms, some populated with former executives and investigators at Kroll, and many with superb former federal and state prosecutors and investigators. It is difficult to believe that an RFP or more open process would not have revealed these facts, and assured the same high quality review at more modest cost than the one Dr. Landon seeks from Kroll. There are more than a few retired or former FBI agents or state or federal prosecutors in town. I’m sure if Dr. Landon picks up the phone and calls one or more of them, he’ll get some guidance about the wide range of alternatives available to the school district.
Ken, I miss you on the BOF.
Having now heard from a number of parents who were alarmed by the “Emergency” school message, and then angered by having the emergency contact used to push parents to lobby RTM members, my concern level rises. I’ve also asked (but not had a response) as to the nature of differences in our schools since the last assessment as well as improvements in security planning. If we have a good basic plan, perhaps we can have it updated and then spend the dollar difference on implementation.
Wendy. A study was done some 4-5 years ago. The town paid $35,000 for it. If that firm was good enough then to perform a study to protect our teachers and children, then why were they not given the opportunity to submit a bid? Why does this seem like such an emergency? Why did we not ask for competing bids.? What happened to the original study? Did we enact any of it? Why is Landon using such tactics to scare the parents?
Let us not lose sight of something: “the Board is seeking funding for…recommendations,” not to do one ounce of actual physical work to make the schools more safe or secure. Will the proposed work be another $100-200k? Will Dr. Landon have a shoe-in contractor for that work as well? Something stinks.
I object to the unduly alarmist nature of yesterday’s email. I don’t appreciate getting messages marked “URGENT” when the subject is, in fact, an administrative matter. And while it is an important matter, I find the superintendent’s eagerness to blow off process and hastily push through this agenda disconcerting and suspicious.
We also need to object to this kind of reckless spending by having Landon use scare tactics and a bullying approach to get us to accept a process that sidesteps an important process. We need to remember a study was done just a few years back by a firm our elected officials felt was qualified. If they were good enough to protect our children and teachers back then, we need to know why Landon is bypassing them now.
We also need to know what was in that study and what our town enacted as part of that study. we need to know if parts were not used, then why. We’re cost of changes an issue? What did we learn with that study and what was implemented and what was not, and why. And if this firm did a new study with the goals that were defined, what is their cost considering they already know our schools and procedures.
Even if a few years have gone by after that study was completed we should know if some changes were implemented, what has been the positive or negative.
No doubt the safety of our children and teachers is paramount. But this URGENT technique being used by Landon, bypassing a process that serves to eliminate conflict and question, seems to raise doubt as to his intent.
Spending money under to disguise of safety for our children and teachers, without process and procedure, is troubling and very concerning.
I just did a Google search using ‘school security asessment’. I found national firms that specifically work in this area. What was troubling, Kroll did not make the top choices.
The process of deciding on a firm, if needed, is totally flawed. Dr Landon has decided he knows best. This starts to raise a question as to why our school leader decided to chose Kroll. It also raises serious questions as to wy this is being done in a no bid process.
Did our Board of Finance really let his happen?
Do you know Bo?
Self-appointed “community watchdog”, Mr. Shuldman implies some form of impropriety has taken place and decides the best response is to forestall the process with rhetoric. This is NOT the time for nickel and diming. As a parent, I am relieved to see Dr. Landon respond in a prompt and responsible manner. His initiative has our hearts’ momentum and I’d like to see it move forward for the sake of our community.
Looks Like Dr Landon pulled the request. Congrats to all that questioned the process and the no bid contract. And thank you RTM for protecting the residents.
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Note: WestportNow Publisher Gordon F. Joseloff is also First Selectman of Westport