Monday, January 31, 2005

Watkins contract update

Last week the Board of Education renewed the controversial DCPS security contract awarded to Watkins Security for another six month term by a voice vote of 4 to 0, with one abstention. Due to the nature of the vote -- by voice -- DCPS were unable to provide me with a breakdown of who voted for what. So I did a little hunting myself.

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This was the email I sent to all nine Board members.
Dear [board member],

On Monday, January 24th the DC Board of Education, by a voice vote of 4 for and 1 abstention, voted to extend Watkins Security's contract with DCPS by six months. I have a couple of questions regarding this vote in particular along with the topic of security in general that I hope you can address:

a) Did you cast a vote with respect to the extension? If so, what was the reasoning behind your vote?

b) How do you believe security at DCPS facilities should be handled once this contract extension reaches its conclusion? Do you prefer putting it out to bid to private contractors, transferring the authority to the Metropolitan Police, providing your own in-house security or another option? Why do you feel your option would best serve DCPS, its employees and its students?

Thank you for your time,

The DC Education Blog
I only received two replies. The first was from District 3 representative Tommy Wells:
Hi Nathan,

I voted to extend the contract since not to do so would leave our schools without security. The vote is to extend the contract until June.

MPD has promised to have a new security contractor in place at that time.

I would much prefer that DCPS hire its own security staff for our schools. This will take some time.

The current management operations for DCPS is abysmal. As soon as we are paying our current personnel on time, hiring teachers before August, hiring sufficient building engineers to maintain schools properly, and generally managing our human resources functions well, we can then focus on adding the security function.

Tommy Wells
The second was from the BoE Vice President Mirian Saez
I was not present at the meeting. However, I would have voted to extend so as to assure services through the school year end. As to the question regarding how best to handle security, I will wait until Dr. Janey submits his recommendation for discussion. That is when all the info will be before us for decision-making.

Mirian Saez
So at least two members of the Board of Education actually respond to queries from their constituents. As for the rest -- Peggy Cooper Cafritz, Victor Reinoso, Jeff Smith, William Lockridge, Carrie Thornhill, Robin Martin and Carolyn Graham -- I'll update this post if I ever hear back from them.

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