DARIEN, Conn. – A $344,000 spending request from the Board of Education for increased security measures in Darien’s schools was approved by the Representative Town Meeting on Monday, but not before concerns were raised over adding additional personnel to the government payroll.
The $344,000 will pay for new surveillance cameras, security software, door locks and outdoor public address systems, among other items, and also for unarmed security monitors in the five elementary schools and Middlesex Middle School.
Monitors will cost about $75,000 for the rest of the school year, and the Board of Education plans to spend about $156,000 to pay for the monitors for 2013-14 school year, not including benefits. While all of the RTM members said that improving school security is a priority in town, the prospect of adding six new employees to the payroll gave some members pause.
“I don’t have a problem expanding spending on school security, but I take issue with adding more staff,” said RTM member Bruce Orr Sr. “There are no studies that extra monitors will help avert a tragedy like Sandy Hook.”
To emphasize his point, Orr helped persuade the RTM to split the appropriation into two parts, with the first part for the physical security items and the second part for the added personnel. In the end, both measures passed convincingly.
Adding the monitors was a top priority of the board, said Board of Education Chairman Betsy Hagerty-Ross, who was also in attendance Monday night. Her board members will look for the money in their own budget to pay for them for the rest of the school year, even if the RTM did not approve the $75,000, she said.
“This gives us an extra set of eyes,” school Superintendent Stephen Falcone said.