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Douglas County School Board complains about $13 million county gift for school safety

Castle Rock — The Douglas County Schools Board of Education (BOE) wasted no time complaining about a $13.3 million gift to improve school safety and security from the Douglas County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). On Tuesday, the BOCC passed a resolution appropriating $10 million for “physical entry way security technology and mental health services for children,” and “safety on-site specialists, specifically train school resources (sic) officers dedicated solely to school security.”

The grant also provides $331,250 to form a “community response team (CRT) for youth” tasked with responding to schools and the community “to ensure that young people and their families are getting connected to needed mental health and substance use disorder resources” as well as providing “communication that links school, home and community when needed.”

Another $3 million is set aside as 50 percent matching funds for the “cost associated with School Resource Officers or equivalent positions for schools throughout Douglas County.” This part of the grant is conditioned on individual schools coming up with the other “50% ongoing” before the county “expends any of the $3 million.”

A press release attributed to the BOE the same day from Paula Hans, Public Information Officer  says, “…ongoing funds can only be accessed if matched, which we have expressed to the Commissioners is virtually impossible at this point in the budget of our schools.”

However, in November Douglas County voters approved a $40 million mill levy override for education that increased yearly property taxes $204 on “the average Douglas County homeowner with a home valued at $470,000.”

Voters also passed a “$250 million no-new-taxes Bond” intended in part to “enhance safety and security in all of our schools.”

Regarding the bond issue and mill levy override the press release says, “These measures enable the school district to move forward with planned physical security improvements at DCSD schools and add 80 counselors to DCSD schools beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.”

The release goes on to say, “Our public schools will only be able to take advantage of the one-time funds offered by the Commissioners if the funds are utilized in accordance with the Commissioners desired purposes.”

Douglas County School Board

Hans responded to a Complete Colorado inquiry about the apparent inconsistency of obtaining a $250 million bond issue and a $40 million mill levy override in November and now saying that finding matching funds to take advantage of the county’s gift “is virtually impossible,” saying in part, “The District’s budget development process has been ongoing for more than six months…All of next year’s ongoing revenue has been allocated to school budgets, personnel (to include hiring 80 new counselors from the successful passage of 5A), and staff compensation.”

No mention was made of adding school resource officers in either the press release or the statement given to Complete Colorado Wednesday.

Complaining in the press release about the composition of two committees  formed by the BOCC, a Physical School Safety and Protection Funding Committee and a Mental Health for Students Funding Committee, the press release says, “…the nine private schools in Douglas County with approximately 3,000 students, will have the same representation on the two committees formed by the Commissioners, if not more than DCSD, with 91 public schools and 68,000 students.”

In a statement to Complete Colorado Wednesday BOE President David Ray said, “Adding additional advisory committees not only replicates efforts, but it also promotes ‘random acts,’ as opposed to continuing a focused, thoughtful and effective approach to a comprehensive plan for school safety.”

In a letter read to the BOCC Tuesday by Ray and Vice President Wendy Vogel, the BOE said, “Random acts towards an approach to school safety can be more detrimental than helpful…We certainly do not expect you to have this level of understanding since you do not live in our schools on a daily basis.  Nor is it possible for an advisory committee to have this understanding in three weeks…We fear that your resolutions to form advisory committees is “reinventing the wheel,” at best and will only promote randomness of solutions.”

The letter goes on to say, “We would respectfully request that the public discussion about SPECIFIC strategies for “securing our schools” stop.  These discussions need to be had at a secure and confidential level.  Otherwise, we risk informing the very individuals who intend to do harm to our students by sharing potential vulnerabilities in security practices and procedures.”

The press release continues, “We are also concerned that the Commissioners intend to allocate public funds to private schools. This complicates the process, as publicly elected officials do not govern private schools and there is no public accountability measures for these schools.”

“It would be irresponsible…for our seven elected, volunteer board members to abdicate decision making responsibility for DCSD to the Douglas County Commissioners or any committees they may form,” the press release continued.

“The Board has not met to discuss the BOCC’s actions nor has there been any discussion about whether to accept or reject any funds,” said Ray.

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