The Knox County Schools (KCS) Board of Education is considering whether to hire an outside consultant for reinstating law enforcement in their schools. In a letter submitted to the Knox County Board of Education (KCBOE) last week, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said that the proposed facilitator would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“Please let this letter serve as official notification that I strongly oppose using taxpayer dollars to pay an outside consulting firm to tell the district what every parent in Knox County already knows: armed law enforcement officers are a necessity in schools,” wrote Jacobs. “[I] simply cannot ignore that physical security is absolutely critical in keeping our students safe at school. I am deeply disturbed that any governmental body would even consider removing law enforcement from any of our schools.”
In his letter to KCBOE, Jacobs also made the argument that officers in schools and other systems – like school-based interventions, threat assessment programs, comprehensive counseling, and student support programs – didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. To bolster his claim, Jacobs reminded the board that he’d committed $3.1 million for school social and emotional services in the upcoming budget.
Jacobs suggested that KCBOE get input from their constituents – not a consulting firm.
“I agree that conversations about these campus-specific school arrangements should include public participation, but paying an outside consulting firm to do this work is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” wrote Jacobs. “The voters elected each of the board members to represent one of our nine school districts. As such, the most reasonable course of action is for constituents to share their concerns and ideas with school board members so that the board can engage in thoughtful discussion and make well-informed policy decisions; not pass that responsibility to a third party at taxpayer expense.”
The Tennessee Star inquired with the mayor’s office why he believed the board is pushing to hire a facilitator. They didn’t respond by press time.
As The Star reported, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon announced last month that she was effectively removing officers from Knoxville schools by terminating their memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Knoxville Police Department (KPD) and Knox County Schools (KCS). The announcement came suddenly, and without the knowledge of KCBOE members or KCS Superintendent Bob Thomas. Kincannon’s decision came shortly after the officer-involved shooting of high school student Anthony Thompson, Jr., at Austin-East Magnet High School.
KCBOE convened for a work session on Wednesday to discuss the potential hire of a facilitator.
KCBOE member Daniel Watson said that the mayor didn’t understand what KCBOE was trying to accomplish in its proposal. He added that the cost would be “pennies on the dollar for every student” and emphasized that it would be minimal. Board member Jennifer Owen pointed out that the board hadn’t incurred travel expenses last year; she and several others noted that funds could be reallocated to pay for the facilitator.
Watson and other members characterized the consulting firm as a mediator between KCBOE and the community as they review the MOA.
Thomas confirmed during the work session that he and other school officials had a meeting Thursday with Kincannon to discuss revival of the MOA.
Board member Mike McMillan requested that Thomas urge Kincannon to give him and KCBOE a definitive answer on the viability of renewing the MOA. Thomas said that if Kincannon didn’t give a definitive answer during their meeting, that they would take her non-answer as a “no.”
McMillan agreed that it wasn’t a large amount of money, but contended that it wasn’t the amount but the principle of the matter: that the members should be able to make decisions without a facilitator between them and their constituents. Board member Betsy Henderson agreed with that assessment.
KCBOE is scheduled to formally review and vote on the hire of an outside consultant next Wednesday during their full board meeting.
– – –