Outside Trenton Public Schools Tuesday, city police officers patrol the buildings after an eleventh hour dispute between the Trenton Board of Education and its private security company Patriot caused guards to walk out on Friday. It left schools and city leaders scrambling through the weekend to get an alternate security plan in place.
“We want to send a message to the parents who have called and said, ‘Should I take my kids out of school?’ We want to ensure them that security will be in place and that their safety is of paramount concern,” said Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora.
At a city hall news conference, Gusciora said he’s called on the Trenton Police Department to deploy officers at the nearly dozen schools now left without guards. It all stems from a lawsuit between the district, the former security company, called Motivated, and the current provider, Patriot. Motivated alleges an employee gained inside information on the bidding process that gave Patriot an unfair advantage. Gusciora says the court agreed and ordered a desist on Patriot, but the Board of Education failed to notify the city.
“This was a dispute between the privatized security firms. We, unfortunately, were the collateral damage and the innocent victims,” Gusciora said.
“I would like to see the mayor of this great city of Trenton ask the superintendent to resign, along with board president Gene Bouie,” said Janice Williams, grievance chair with the Trenton Education Association. “They have failed the students, our staff, this community and taxpayers of this great city.”
Members of the Trenton Education Association are calling for Trenton Schools Superintendent Fred McDowell’s ouster, saying placing one police officer per school still leaves kids and staff at risk.
“They knew since August this litigation was taking place and that they were the codependents. They lied to the public, they lied to the district and said that they had no knowledge of this happening until Friday. Now it has been uncovered that they were fully knowledgeable,” Williams said.
Call it bad timing or a coincidence — a bomb threat was called in at the visual and performing arts school for Trenton Central High on Friday — the same day of the security lapse when guards walked out.
“Currently the district has not approved any of the 22 school safety plans, so none of the safety plans for the individual schools have been approved or a district. They haven’t had a districtwide safety meeting since last school year, that’s how concerned they are about the safety of students and staff in this district,” Williams said.
“We want to have advanced notice, particularly when it involves security firms. We want to work with the school system. I know they’re two different entities — the city of Trenton and the Board of Education, but we want to make sure that we have advanced notice so if there are security gaps, we have Trenton police to step up to the plate,” Gusciora said.
A 2:30 p.m. meeting was planned for the mayor, school board and superintendent. As of now, the third party Motivated security firm will take over the contract, but a final resolution is unlikely until after the Thanksgiving break.