DES MOINES — The Davenport School District can begin hiring more security personnel after the state School Budget Review Committee on Tuesday approved $1.13 million in spending authority for security. But the approval came with reservations about how the district will fund the plan in future years.
The approval came after a recommendation from the Iowa Department of Education. The vote was 4-1 from the panel, which is a nonpartisan group that reviews school budgets and considers requests to modify budgetary limitations.
Davenport Schools Superintendent Art Tate asked the panel for spending authority to hire additional security personnel, including a district-level security and outreach specialist, more school resource officers and additional unarmed campus security guards.
School board president Ralph Johanson attended the meeting via video conference along with Tate and other district representatives. After the meeting, Johanson, praised Tate’s leadership and forethought in taking the plan before the review committee.
“I think what’s next is that (Tate) and his team have a good, viable healthy plan that now they will implement,” said Johanson. “We’re going to figure out a way to make it sustainable.”
Review committee member Keith England cast the dissenting vote. After the meeting he said the district needs to “live within their dollar figure.”
Committee member Leland Tack voted in favor of the request, but said it was a hard decision. “I struggled with the request," he said after the meeting, adding the board will need to spend more money now that the plan has been approved.
“This emergency meeting is rather unique,” Tate said during his opening remarks at the meeting. “Everything I read, know, think and feel tells me that attacks against schools will continue.
“As our application pointed out, the busy Iowa legislature did not have time to pick up this important security issues near the end of the last session,” he said.
He added he is cognizant of the challenge of how to continue the funding for added security. He said options include possible legislative relief to provide flexibility for using reserves, local grants and "funding from our very generous community," adjusting modified allowable growth fund, partnerships with the city, federal grants for school resource officers, finding other general-fund reductions, and looking at school-district program funding flexibility opportunities (in legislation).
His top priority is to find sustainable funding, he said.
Committee member Dave Roederer asked Tate to explain more about the role of campus security supervisors. “It appears that they are going to be unarmed, which, frankly, I’m trying to figure out how that works,” he said.
Security supervisors are in the intermediate and high school facilities now, Tate said. They welcome students into the school, are present at the end of the school day and at lunch time, and are available in the halls.
They secure the buildings, Tate said, and students come to them and talk to them, asking advice and discussing threats the students see in the schools.
“Even without weapons, knowing that there is someone there that has instant communication with our school resource officers and with the police is extremely valuable,” Tate said.
In an interview last week, Tate said that the district would begin the hiring process immediately if the committee approved the request.
Before the meeting, the review committee also received comments from community members, including Kari Dugan, one of the organizers of the District Wide Davenport PTO.
“This security program does not provide our district a well-rounded plan,” she said in her letter. “It is not well researched and there has been no opportunity for public input.”
She referred to a state audit that found the district special education program in "systemic non-compliance" with several parts of the federal law that governs the education of students with disabilities.
"Our district has been found to punish our students of color far more than it does our Caucasian students. We are concerned that simply bringing in more law enforcement will only serve to exacerabate this issue,” Dugan said.