School board shares timeline of events concerning SRO services

Published 7:04 pm Friday, March 26, 2021

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On Friday evening, Beaufort County Schools published a press release regarding past and current developments in the school system’s quest to find a new provider of school resource officer services. Below is the full statement:

In light of recent questions and discussions regarding the decision to seek a private vendor to provide School Resource Officer services in the Beaufort County Schools, and in an effort to be transparent and provide relevant information to the public, the Board of Education is sharing the timeline of events that led to its recent decisions.  On Nov. 13, 2020, the Beaufort County Board of Education received a written communication from the Office of the Sheriff and signed by Sheriff Ernie Coleman.  The letter specifically stated, “The MOU is set to end on June 30, 2021.  Any party’s participation in this MOU may be terminated upon 90 days written notice as set forth in section I, term and termination of the agreement.  This letter is a formal notification of our intent to terminate this MOU in 90 days.” Upon receiving the written communication as an email attachment, the superintendent sent the letter to the county manager to share with the county commissioners.

The superintendent sent a meeting request to Sheriff Coleman, which read, “Please receive this communication as an official meeting request to discuss the termination of the MOU between the BCSO and BCS. I would like to meet with you at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, at the district office, if possible. Otherwise, I will be happy to travel to your office and/or another site you deem most appropriate. Please feel free to email or call me at (redacted) to confirm a meeting date and time. As you may recognize, I have a sense of urgency to speak with you regarding the safety of our students and employees.  Thank you for your consideration.”  The Sheriff honored the request and met with the superintendent and assistant superintendent at the date and time requested.

During the meeting on Nov. 17, 2020, Sheriff Ernie Coleman specifically told the superintendent and assistant superintendent that Beaufort County Schools should make “alternative arrangements” in staffing schools with school resource officers (SROs) for the future. The superintendent communicated this information to the Board of Education during the regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 17, 2020.  On Nov. 18, 2020, the chair and vice-chair for both the county commissioners and Board of Education met together with the superintendent and county manager to discuss a course of action.

The Board of Education approved the Request for Proposal (RFP) for School Resource Officer Services in Beaufort County during the regular meeting on February 2, 2021.  The superintendent directly spoke with the County Commissioners Chairman by phone to ensure the commissioners were comfortable with the timeline and process.  The Chairman responded to the superintendent citing, “the commissioners are comfortable with the timeline as long as the contract and payments are represented in the new fiscal year, after July 1, 2021.”  The RFP was released on Wednesday February 3, 2021 and the Board of Education voted on March 16, 2021 to contract with Allied Universal.  The Office of the Sheriff did not submit a bid proposal in response to the RFP.

During a joint Beaufort County Commissioners and Board of Education meeting on Tuesday March 23, 2021, the superintendent confirmed that the Sheriff terminated the MOU, told the superintendent and assistant superintendent to seek “alternative arrangements” for securing the schools, and did not submit a bid proposal to the RFP.  The superintendent presented the Allied Universal pricing proposal.  Upon motion by Commissioner Walker and second by Commissioner Richardson, the motion passed 4-3 to allocate $650,000 per contractual year for the next three years.  The fiscal allocation reflects the County Commissioners total contribution not a total increase.

Beaufort County Schools secures funding to specifically support the costs associated with the School Resource Officer program.  The Board contributed $433,333 this fiscal year toward the $765,325 total to provide School Resource Officers in our schools.  The proposed Year 1 contractual cost with Allied Universal is $1,081,750.62.

The Board of Education wishes to thank the county commissioners for their consideration in ensuring students and employees within Beaufort County Schools will be protected throughout the entire school day.  The Board of Education wishes to welcome Allied Universal who will provide N.C. sworn and armed police officers in our schools who will have the legal rights and training to engage an active shooter as well as possess arresting authority.

The Board of Education wishes to thank the many Sheriff’s deputies who have served in Beaufort County Schools over the years.  We recognize that the change to a company police force comes with many questions.  However, the Board of Education reiterates that the aforementioned actions are as a result of the Sheriff terminating the existing MOU for the School Resource Officer program.  While the Board of Education would not have chosen this path otherwise, the Board is confident that Allied Universal can and will provide the services necessary to maintain safety and security on our campuses.