- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2005

The D.C. public school system has tripled the size of its internal security force since last year, adding dozens of new “in-house” officers to the hundreds of private guards already working in city schools under a two-year, $30 million contract.

The number of school-system employees hired to provide security rose from 14 to at least 40 positions, according to an analysis of January and July 2005 payroll records. The figure does not include private guards working in more than 160 school buildings on a contract basis.

According to school officials, the school system received the new positions as a result of negotiations with the Metropolitan Police Department last year over the latest school security contract. Police took over school security in July 2005 as a result of recently enacted D.C. Council legislation.

Thomas Brady, business administrator for the school system, said school officials previously had an internal security force of 14 employees, but received an additional 24 security officers and six investigative positions from the contract through negotiations with police.

Mr. Brady said the move gives the school system its own force to perform services such as 24-hour monitoring of school buildings, investigation of internal administrative matters, command center staffing and burglary response.

“It seems to make good sense to me from a business and security perspective,” Mr. Brady said.

The sharp increase in the number of in-house security positions comes at a time when high-level school administrators have expressed interest in creating their own security force after years of relying on outside contractors. However, Mr. Brady said the recent increase is not tied to any of those talks.

“We are studying doing that, and we’re working with the city to find out what makes sense,” Mr. Brady said.

Oversight of the school security contract, which is now with D.C.-based Hawk One Security Inc., was transferred from the school system to the Metropolitan Police Department this year. A move by school officials to switch from a contract to an internal security force would require approval from Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the D.C. Council.

It is not clear whether city officials would sign off on such a plan, but Mr. Brady said early discussions will involve city officials, school leaders and the D.C. Office of the Inspector General, which has issued numerous audits on school security during the past year.

City officials say it could be years before security is handled directly by the school system.

“Our focus right now is making the current contract work and not on the future of who is going to assume responsibility for security at some point,” said Edward Reiskin, the city’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice.

D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, who chairs the council’s Committee on Education, said the contracted and in-house security forces perform separate jobs.

“I think they’re pretty distinct,” she said. “There are a lot of things that need to be investigated internally in terms of disciplinary issues.”

The staffing increase coincides with scrutiny over the rising costs of providing security for D.C. schools.

The D.C. Office of Inspector General last year found that D.C. schools spend more money per student on contracted security services than several comparable jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, the new school system security jobs have doubled the amount the school system spends on internal security.

Salaries total more than $1.4 million this year, compared with nearly $700,000 last year, records show.

Security is currently provided by Hawk One, but the future of the company’s contract remains uncertain after a legal challenge from the previous contractor, Watkins Security of D.C. Inc.

Watkins has cited irregularities in the contracting process and questions about Hawk One’s finances in seeking to have the contract overturned.

Watkins held the security contract from 2003 until July 2005.

In August, the D.C. Contract Appeals Board sided with Watkins, ruling that city officials “did not follow the rules” in picking Hawk One to provide school security over Watkins.

The board ordered city officials to rebid the contract or to re-evaluate the offers submitted by the two finalists, Hawk One and Watkins.

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