RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe School Board voted 5-0 at a special meeting on May 24 to hire a safety consultant. The board will enter an agreement with School Safety Operations, Inc. to have the consultant evaluate the campus and provide analysis.
The service agreement is not to exceed $9,900 and is meant to complement the goals of the advisory safety committee, a 25-person board whose members range from teachers and parents to other community stakeholders. The mission is to improve the safety plan at the R. Roger Rowe. The consultant will assess the school campus and provide analysis on any threats or vulnerabilities.
The advisory safety committee was established in March.
The special board meeting comes on the heels of a regular May 10 school board meeting when the recommendation of hiring a safety consultant was split with a 2-2 vote. Board member Scott Kahn abstained, and president Todd Frank and vice president Tyler Seltzer were in favor. Board members Sarah Neal and Tom Barton were not in favor.
On May 24, Frank provided time for board members to share their viewpoints before the public comment. He also noted he was not planning to change his vote from the last time.
Kahn said he abstained from the last vote because it was a split vote.
“This was Tom’s (Barton) first meeting and I didn’t want to start our tenure together with a split vote that way,” he said, adding that the time since then allowed for public feedback and opinions. “I’m more than ready to vote on the issue,” he said.
Barton said he felt there was some misunderstanding about his “no” vote. It was not that he was not in favor of hiring a safety consultant but instead wanted to table the discussion. Barton said it was his understanding that the stakeholder committee had not fully expressed its desires regarding what consultant to hire. Now that they did have an opinion on the matter, Barton said he no longer had to withhold his vote.
“I do think that it is important to get another expert involved who can give us feedback on other broader safety issues,” said Barton, noting how this consultant was skilled in particular security issues. “I also think there is a broader safety concern that we need to be more informed about.”
Barton mentioned safety on campus and the parking lot and said seeking additional expertise would be encouraged.
Neal said school safety was always a priority for her — the first thing she asked for when she got her seat on the board was a copy of the school’s comprehensive safety plan. She reviewed it and noted some areas needed work.
Neal said she made a motion to postpone moving forward for a couple of reasons.
“It was my understanding that the committee’s goal was to create a comprehensive safety plan and then I saw we are also voting on a consultant, whose partial role is to complete a comprehensive safety plan,” she said. “I didn’t want to see parallel work going on.”
Neal also serves on the advisory safety committee and felt its first meeting had great information. It was also mentioned that a school consultant for safety was on the horizon for an agenda.
“I felt that there needed to be more due diligence to understand what the (safety consultant) scope of services was,” she said. “I also wanted to make sure that committee had the opportunity to discuss if that (safety consultant services) was a broad enough scope.”
Neal shared that she personally did not see the negative consequences of waiting a month to decide at the previous May meeting.
“I’m glad we are all here and fully supportive of moving forward with a security evaluation,” said Neal, adding that she wanted to ensure that safety issues brought up in the parent and teacher survey would also be evaluated.
Last to speak was Seltzer.
“I was supportive of the recommendation of hiring a consultant a couple weeks ago and continue to be supportive of it today,” Seltzer said. “I thought it was a reasonable request from our superintendent and from our chief business officer.”
He also noted that he cared greatly about results and would never not disparage or disrespect the process.
“I thought it (May 10 board meeting) was a great example of a focus on process and study get(ting) in the way of results and productivity,” Seltzer said. “I’m glad we are here today to put this item back on the agenda.”