Former county president denounces school leadership on safety

The issue of school safety in Guilford County has been at the forefront of late, and there has been quite a bit of tension between principals and county leaders over this.

This week, former Chairman of the Council of Commissioners Jeff Phillips weighed in on the debate and made a forceful critique of how school leaders approached security and how they managed $ 10 million worth of money. funds for this purpose approved by the Council of Commissioners in 2018.

“My experience over the past few years is that GCS [Guilford County Schools] management just doesn’t see improving school safety as a top priority, ”Phillips said in an email to the Rhino Times.

He said school leaders dragged their feet after the county voted to approve the $ 10 million to make schools safer.

“We literally had to beg for a request for an allocation of the $ 10 million we set aside for improving school safety in 2018,” Phillips wrote. “Almost a year later, we finally received an encrypted request that did not contain any details. When we repeatedly asked for more information, they were offended that we had questions about details. Due to our lingering frustrations with their utter disregard for making this issue a priority, we began speaking with school safety companies ourselves – trying to find out more about school safety solutions (by doing mainly the work of GCS administration and their board).

School officials have said the money situation is much more complicated than what the commissioners presented, and they argue that one of the reasons so much of the money was not spent is that former Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing has delayed things.

According to Phillips’ recollection of the events of the past several years – during which he was in the midst of discussions – leaders of the school system have continued to stagnate on several occasions after several county requests were made to address growing concerns from many. parents and students.

The former president wrote that after the pandemic hit in early 2020, school officials demanded that part of the $ 10 million be spent on ventilation and HVAC upgrades related to issues with the COVID-19.

Phillips said county commissioners eventually agreed to allocate $ 5 million for this purpose.

“If they didn’t receive any of the funds, they apparently never did that job,” Phillips said. “The county never releases funds until work is approved to begin or reimbursed for work already completed. The truth is, they were so obsessed with indebting billions of dollars to our fellow citizens over the past two years that they have constantly looked away from school safety. “

One of the arguments put forward recently by Guilford County Superintendent of Schools, Sharon Contreras, is that $ 10 million is a very small amount when it comes to improving safety in a large school system like that of the Guilford County. She said in a meeting with commissioners that she knew of a school system that needed $ 20 million just to fix the doors of a school building.

Phillips argues that schools could do more with what they have.

“Even though commissioners tried to bring school safety to the forefront in 2018 and beyond, the issue has effectively not been an issue for GCS since then,” Phillips wrote. “Almost $ 5 million has also been allocated to improve the radio communication system on all GCS campuses (a major safety issue to date). They obviously dropped the ball on this need as well and are now conveniently suggesting that they never received any funds because of the old Council of Commissioners. The notion is laughable and disturbing, to say the least. I have never seen more shameful point the finger and pass the buck when things go wrong in the classrooms and hallways of our schools.

Phillips added that school system leaders have “kept their heads in the sand on school safety issues for years” and said “our children, teachers and staff continue to pay the price.”

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