Guilford County Board of Education Member Pat Tillman has responded to public frustrations aired by Guilford County commissioners this week over the fact that Guilford County Schools has yet to spend $10 million in county funds that the commissioners allocated in 2018 for improvements in school security.
Tillman, who spoke to the Rhino Times and who has also been addressing the commissioners’ concerns on social media, said progress is being made by the school system and he added that, in January, he’d met with two commissioners to discuss the next steps in the process.
Tillman also said school officials want to make certain the money is spent well – something that involves significant planning.
He added that the delay was exacerbated by the Guilford County commissioners’ dissatisfaction with an initial security plan that school officials brought to them in September of last year.
In June of 2018, the Board of Commissioners approved $10 million in funds for the schools to be able to make some security enhancements quickly. In a recent work session, several commissioners pressed school officials on the status of that project.
“There are two sides to every story,” Tillman said.
He said he does agree that security upgrades could be moving faster, but he added that the delay was in part due to the fact that commissioners didn’t like the original plan school officials presented. He said he’s currently trying to help improve the lines of communication between the commissioners and school officials.
“I am trying to be a bridge,” Tillman said.
Tillman also said that, while everyone wants to see security upgrades at schools made quickly, it’s important to use the funds judiciously.
“We are about spending money wisely,” Tillman said.
In a Facebook discussion thread on the subject, Tillman posted: “On Sept 19th our COO submitted to the BO Commissioners the plan. I cannot share that plan as it has several specifics about security items and schools that could not be shared.”
He also wrote that the way to spend the money wisely is to first have a comprehensive study of the district – which he said is already underway.
“This includes but is not limited to walking schools throughout the district,” he wrote. “They have deployed two teams and are able to walk about eight schools per day. Secondly, the study to access control systems across the district is in the final stages of review. Final comments and edits are being performed by facilities and technology services. It should be published within two weeks and be live on the GCS purchasing site.”
Tillman said he’s had private conversations with elected officials and other stakeholders to ensure that Guilford County doesn’t get into the same trouble the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system did. He said officials there rushed into a sophisticated $1.3 million security tactical effort that didn’t work.
“They [Charlotte-Mecklenburg] are now asking for their money back because of that fail,” Tillman wrote. “I am confident working hand in glove with local law enforcement, our Commissioners, vendors and thought leaders we can do what is right.”