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Knox school board considering several security audit options

12:46 AM, Mar 5, 2013   |    comments
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It's full-steam ahead for security audits at Knox County Schools.  The board of education discussed three options on Wednesday night that are on the table to pursue when it comes to making sure students and teachers stay safe.

Those options include: an external audit of several schools that would focus on work done by former security contractor Professional Security and Design Consultants, a full review of all security equipment currently installed in every school building, and developing a "standard" of security throughout the district.

Several board members told McIntyre that they want the district to do all three options.

At a meeting last Friday, Public Building Authority CEO Doug Smith presented a "Rapid Fact Gathering" audit plan to school, government, and law enforcement leaders.  BOE Chair Karen Carson and Dr. McIntyre presented it to the board on Monday night.

It calls for an external company to do an independent audit of security systems in five or six schools chosen by Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.  Results of that would help officials learn if the previous contractor also did shoddy work in other schools. Board member Thomas Deakins said expanding that audit to include more schools would be determined by the initial audit uncovering more deficient work.

Several board members, including Deakins, told McIntyre they like the idea, but do not want Mayor Burchett to select the schools that are audited.  Instead, they want the schools drawn at random.  

Smith wrote in his proposal that the audit would cost between $12,000 and $15,000.  Deakins told McIntyre thinks the school district should pay for the audit itself; several other board members agreed. McIntyre said the district will find the money somewhere within its $404,000,000 budget, if that's what the board decides.

The second option is what McIntyre called a "functional review" to make sure the all current systems and equipment work correctly.  Current contractor "Simplex Grinnell" would inspect 27 schools over the next few months, and do the other 61 schools over summer break.  "Simplex Grinnell" did a similar security review in 2012, but it focused only on the buildings' burglar alarms.

The final option is developing a set of security standards for the district.  That would then go to an external company for approval.
McIntyre, and many board members, want to do all three.

BOE members have spent the past few weeks learning what they can about the state of current security in Knox County Schools.  That effort came in the wake of a 2011 audit on two schools that showed deficiencies in a former security contractor's work.  Since then, local leaders, parents, and some teachers have called for a full security audit across the district.

The board will vote on the review and audit options at its regular board meeting.  That is set for 5 p.m. at the Andrew Johnson Building in Downtown Knoxville 

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Proposed plans for a new security audit in Knox County Schools could be a sign that government leaders are pushing politics aside.

At a Board of Education work session Monday evening, school leaders will recommend an audit plan to the school board that is not what they initially wanted.

School Board Chair Karen Carson and Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre will present a plan to audit school security that the head of the Public Building Authority drafted.

The plan came out of a special meeting held on school security last Friday.  Carson and Dr. McIntyre met for the first time with Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, Knox County Sheriff JJ Jones, and PBA CEO Dale Smith since concerns were raised early last month about school security.

Smith came up with the audit plan that the school board will hear about Monday.   It calls for an external company to test five to six schools selected by Mayor Burchett, and could cost between $12 and $15 thousand dollars.

If those schools come back with problems, then, at the very least, it's likely a broader audit would be done.

Some school officials have said that they want a full audit at this point, but McIntyre previously suggested the current security contractor, Simplex Grinnell, do that.   The PBA and Mayor Burchett are adamantly against that idea. They want a neutral company to come in.

Mayor Burchett has also publicly said he'll find money in the county's budget to pay for it.

PBA and Knox County are suing a former security contractor for deficient work it did at Hardin Valley Academy and Powell Middle School back in 2009.  An external audit of that work confirmed PBA didn't get what it paid for at those schools, even though Dr. McIntyre has acknowledged he was told about the issues three years ago.

Of course, this came on the heels of the December 2012 school massacre in Newtown Connecticut, which had already caused red flags to go up about the state of security in Knoxville.

The questions at Monday's meeting are not if a security audit will happen, but rather when and what will it look like.  Leaders agree that they want the process to happen as soon as possible.

10News will have full coverage of the meeting on 10News at 5 & 6, Fox 43 10:00 News, 10News Nightbeat at 11, and on WBIR.com.

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