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School, Police Communication Hinders Security Audit: BOE Pulls Security Audit from RTM Agenda

Jamie Wheeler-Roberts
The Board of Education withdrew a vote on a Kroll security audit from the March 5 RTM meeting.

In the wake of the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, the Westport Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) recommended that a security audit be conducted by Kroll, a New York-based consulting firm. However, controversy over the selection of the company dogged the proposal until it reached the Representative Town Meeting (RTM)—where the vote was withdrawn by the BOE on the day of the meeting, placing the school district’s security plans in limbo.

The contract with Kroll was scheduled to be voted on at the RTM on March 5. Yet, several RTM members expressed concern about the process used to select Kroll, and, according to BOE chair Elaine Whitney, the BOE believed that this concern would cause the vote to fail.

“The RTM focused primarily on process-related questions, not whether the funds would be a good investment,” Whitney said.

Whitney added that due to the RTM’s bylaws, a failed vote would prevent the security item from being discussed again until a new legislative session begins after the November election.

While RTM member Allen Bomes emphasized the importance of improving security, his apprehension led him to support holding off on a vote.

“We’re concerned about safety, but there’s a process you’ve got to follow,” he said. “We weren’t convinced that Kroll was the best, and they didn’t bid it.”

Board of Finance (BOF) member Avi Kaner agreed.

“I would have liked to see the contract put out to bid,” he said.

According to Whitney, the BOE considered other companies before choosing Kroll.

“The [BOE] undertook a thorough vetting process of multiple vendors and concluded that Kroll best met our needs,” she said.

However, the BOE agreed to open the bidding process up to other potential vendors, which, RTM members hoped, would offer services that catered more specifically to Westport’s needs.

“Kroll’s expertise is in Iraq, Afghanistan and inner-city private schools. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work for Westport,” Bomes said.

Another RTM member, Wendy Batteau, echoed Bomes’s concerns about Kroll.

“The firm has great experience, but it may not be entirely applicable to this setting and the climate of our schools,” she said.

Kroll declined to comment for this story, citing confidentiality concerns.

Principal John Dodig stressed the urgency of implementing a security plan for the school system. However, while he initially supported the BOE’s proposal, he understood the concerns of RTM officials.

“I’m disappointed but I understand the politics behind it. The people who hold the purse strings weren’t satisfied with the process,” Dodig said.

The disagreement over the bidding process wasn’t the only controversy surrounding the audit. Initially, the BOE requested $50,000 from the BOF without consulting the police department about the BOE’s selection of Kroll as its security firm. According to police chief Dale Call, the police felt as though it should have been in contact with the BOE throughout the entire process.


“I, along with my command staff, were a little confused as to why no one asked the Police Department if there was anything we felt should be looked at,” Call said. “We feel school safety is a community-wide effort and should be treated as such.”

When the school district returned to the BOF to request an additional $50,000 for the audit, there rose a call for involvement of the Police Department. According to Kaner, the BOF unanimously voted to withhold the additional funds until the police were consulted. Only after agreement that there was enough collaboration between the district and the police did the BOF approve the request.

However, Whitney believed that the police department was always appropriately involved in the process.

“Dr. Landon has worked closely with the police dept on an ongoing basis and particularly so in the aftermath in the Newtown shooting,” Whitney said.

The BOE also plans to involve the Police Department in a task force to assess school security, according to Kaner.

A few days in advance of the RTM vote, officials worried that the vote would fail. An email blast was sent by Superintendent Elliott Landon on March 1 titled “URGENT MESSAGE: Will Our Schools Be Secure?” The email asked all parents to either attend the meeting or write to the RTM in support of the proposal.

Many parents responded quickly, calling their RTM representatives. However, the calls weren’t all urging the RTM to vote. Many parents called with complaints about the emails.

“They thought there was a problem, and they ran out of meetings, and they were panicking,” said Bomes, “and it turns out Elliott was telling them to go to the meeting.”

Landon was unavailable to comment.

Bomes also feared that although the RTM vote has been postponed and the BoE is considering other firms, the district’s prior commitment to Kroll will hinder the competitiveness of the bidding process.

“Let’s say you’re another firm, is another firm going to bid on it? I think they’ll think it’s a waste of time,” Bomes said. “I think it’s very tainted, the whole process.”

However, Call disagreed.

“I think that there is no shortage of firms that would like to bid on such a study,” Call said.

In spite of the various disputes surrounding the audit, however, Kaner was optimistic that a plan would be adopted and work could begin on improving security.

“It’s inevitable that it will get done,” Kaner said. “It’s the right thing to do.”


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Jordan Shenhar
Jordan Shenhar, Web Managing Editor
Jordan Shenhar loves hanging out with his friends-as long as he’s arguing with them. No, he doesn’t have anger management issues; he’s just extremely political. Shenhar participates not only in Inklings, but also in the student-run club JSA. (Junior State of America) Shenhar participates the most in this club to gain time doing one of his favorite activities: arguing about politics with kids his age. Or, as Shenhar says, “[I] take part in one of my favorite activities, arguing with liberals.”  Shenhar is a libertarian, a more unusual party that advocates for small governmental interference. Always wanting to discuss politics even more, Shenhar runs the Young Libertarians Club at Staples. However, don’t assume that Shenhar is a driven, cold-hearted politician. He loves visiting his family in Israel, where he never feels stressed. He is in awe of the good weather there, and accounts many of his greatest moments to spending time there. And of course, he loves sports. Shenhar says “And for most of my life I've been enslaved by the Mets and the Redskins, my two favorite teams to which I devote excessive amounts of time in exchange for them crushing my hopes and dreams.”
Cadence Neenan
Cadence Neenan, Web Managing Editor
By the age of 18, most kids have not yet chosen their favorite word. In fact, most teenagers have never even thought about such a question. Perhaps a few have been asked on a “Getting to Know You” sheet handed out by English teachers on the first day of school. But in that case, most probably just mindlessly scribbled words onto their sheets such as “literally,” or “totally,” or “dude.” Cadence Neenan ’15, on the other hand, has thought about this deeply. Her favorite word is “loquacious.” Neenan grew up in a home that fostered a love for all things English. With her mom as a former Staples High School English teacher and her dad as a librarian, Neenan was destined for a love affair with vocabulary, grammar, and reading. “My mom always used to read to me ever since I was little,” she said. “I love to read because I was raised to be a good reader.” In school, Neenan has opted to create a heavy course load that reflects her love of English and reading. AP Lit, AP Lang, AP Euro, and AP Gov are just a few of the difficult classes Neenan has chosen to take on. For Neenan, however, much of the learning and “fun with English” goes on outside the class material. “The other night, I was reading a poem during English class,” Neenan said. “I really liked it, so I brought it home and showed my mom. We spent the whole 45 minutes at dinner rhetorically analyzing it and talking about the devices the author used. It was so fun.” Alongside typical English classes, Neenan has also become a part of Inklings to exercise her love of writing. After taking Intro to Journalism, she fell in love with newspaper writing and, since then, has proven herself to be an essential Inklings player, as she is now the Web Managing Editor. “When I found out that I got Web Managing I had a panic attack because I was so happy,” Neenan said. “I like being a managing editor because I love the freedom the web gives me to be creative with my ideas.” Neenan also plans to use her journalism and writing skills in college and, later, in her career. “In college I want to study political science, but I am considering using that to go into journalism,” Neenan said. “Going into journalism with a focus on politics is what I am really interested in.”
Jamie Wheeler-Roberts
Jamie Wheeler-Roberts, News Editor
Jamie Wheeler – Roberts, who loves to write and edit for the paper, has a passion for journalism as well as something else. Jamie is a girl who along with loving journalism loves to travel.  Because her mom works for an airline, flying alone at a young age is natural to her. She’s traveled across the world, from Europe to Australia, and has plenty of stories to go with it. “I like going to new places and seeing how different others live their lives compared to ours,” said Jamie ‘13. Jamie is still aspiring to travel more, as she looks forward to hopefully attending college in London. Besides getting to live in a foreign country, she can also focus on her interest in Social Studies which she has indulged over the years by taking courses at Princeton during the summer.  At college though, she wants to focus on her specific passion for International Relations. Jamie has been active in clubs such as JSA, the debate team and student ambassador.  However, during her last few years at Staples she has spent more time at Inklings where she likes making the paper.

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