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With Stern Words on Process, Flagler School Board Ratifies Private Hire of Cop at Old Kings

| January 22, 2013

The Flagler County School Board this evening had security, too. (c FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County School Board this evening had security, too. (c FlaglerLive)

Nine days after a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy was hired for $11,700 by a parent and posted at Old Kings Elementary School as permanent security–without a contract, without legal or policy review, and without the school board’s knowledge–the school board Tuesday evening unanimously ratified the superintendent’s decision.

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But it did so with words of caution, some of them stern, from two board members, who were uncomfortable with several aspects of the arrangement, including the risk of setting a slippery precedent, with giving the impression that Old Kings is more deserving of special security detail than other schools, and with the way the board only learned about the matter well after it had been approved.

Superintendent Janet Valentine and School Board Chairman Andy Dance defended the decision, which has drawn broad attention and a variety of reactions since a FlaglerLive report revealed it Sunday. “We should be praising the donation of a parent which just happens to be a little out of the normal,” Dance said.”It’s not out of the normal purview of the superintendent,” Dance said.

(The school board every two weeks votes to approve any transaction exceeding $10,000, as this transaction did: the school board is the fiscal agent for the transaction. Dance said that since the transaction falls under an existing contract with the sheriff’s office for extra services, the requirement that it be approved by the board doesn’t apply.)

(On Monday, Dance further clarified: the existing SRO contract with the school board includes a provision that notes that “Deputies not assigned to the SRD Unit who work over-time details at the school shall be reimbursed at the current rate of $32.00 per hour as established by the sheriff.” It was under that contractual authority that Valentine could approve the hiring of the deputy at Old Kings, Dance said. Further, he said, the school district will now issue a purchase order in conjunction with the donation–and subsequent to the board’s approval of the donation. The purchase order, a tracking device for expenditure, will be on the school board’s agenda for approval at its next meeting.)

Fellow-board members Trevor Tucker and John Fischer also had no issues (and no questions) about it, while Valentine said: “Personally I couldn’t see how we could say no.”

The gift check.

The gift check.

Laurie Lauria, the parent of a sixth-grader at Old Kings, made the arrangement with Old Kings Principal Nancy Willis and Winnie Oden, the school’s liaison with the sheriff’s office. Lauria’s name was never mentioned at the school board meeting this evening–nor was the fact that Lauria herself did not personally make the donation. The check she wrote and signed on Jan. 9 was under the name of Police Services Inc., an obscure, Ormond Beach-based company that apparently manufactures taillights and similar accessories. None of the board members asked about the parent or the company.

Lauria has been unwilling to talk with reporters. The money pays for 46 days’ worth of a cop’s services, and the arrangement, signed by Lauria and Oden (Oden also refused to speak with a reporter about it) specifies that the officer will have no classroom interaction with students, or traffic control authority.

“I couldn’t think of anything better to say to one news reporter today that this is the power of one,” Valentine said.

Board member Sue Dickinson was less gushing.

“I am very grateful for the donation,” Dickinson said. “My problem is the fact that we have more than one elementary school. And the way I see it is that we’re setting a precedent, and we’re saying that, in my opinion, that this school, because this parent is willing to give the money, this school that has a parent with the money to give, that the safety there is a little more important than it might be elsewhere. Now I understand that the committee is out there, and they’re going to be presenting to us their report in a couple of weeks, and my guess is that the SROs is going to be on that, and as you just stated, it’s going to be our job to find the money to put these SROs into the schools. I would have liked to see this all come together at one time, as opposed to this school getting something ahead of everyone else. I also would have liked to have seen it come to us before it started.”

In early February, a school district committee will be presenting options on how the district could return deputies to the elementary schools, presumably on the district’s and the sheriff’s dime.

Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre, speaking with reporters earlier this afternoon at his office, said that part of the plan entails possibly hiring what he called “seasonal” officers, who would work part-time–but full time during the school year–and therefore cost substantially less than full-time deputies. Manfre favors changing the formula that now calls for the district to pay three-quarter of the cost of SROs, to something closer to a 50-50 split.

There is unanimity on the board to place SROs back in the schools, though the details of the plan may decide how, and to what extent, such SROs would be funded. Colleen Conklin, another school board member who had reservations about the private hiring of a deputy at Old Kings, said the approach was temporary, and would be remedied by a more comprehensive, system-wide approach. Conklin, too, was critical of the administration’s decision to enact the guard duty at Old Kings without the board being informed.

“As gracious and as generous as the donation is,” Conklin said, reiterating several of the points Dickinson made, “it would have been great for all this to come together in one plan, because I do think there is some danger in setting that precedent.” Conklin said the distinction between an armed deputy on a campus and an actual School Resource Deputy is important, in that SROs develop relationships with students, by being permanently posted at each school. Hired deputies don’t: the post is filled by whatever deputy is available, or qualifies, for what amounts to overtime detail through the sheriff’s office. But Conklin, who underscored the importance of following policies and procedures, said she could not have said no to a parent making a donation of that magnitude.

The school board is taking its first look at a comprehensive security proposal on Feb. 5.

“I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve received from parents and the community, not about this donation specifically, but about school security,” Valentine said.

The document below is the full extent of any contractual arrangement between Laura Lauria, Flagler County schools and the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.

Laura Lauria Arrangement with Flagler County Schools

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15 Responses for “With Stern Words on Process, Flagler School Board Ratifies Private Hire of Cop at Old Kings”

  1. Hancock, Thomas says:

    at 10 hours a day that’s over 25.00 an hour nice gig is it also a 1099 job? supposed the Deputy get hurt while there who’s paying for his medical / workers comp?. Also does he get to use his Cruiser fully gassed up at the taxpayers expense ?. Seems the re-rewed sheriff was mentioning while on the campaign trail that the Sheriffs dept was kinda in need of some mid-management trimming, How about cleaning house and getting them house mice out and reassigned to schools, They’d be no extra cost as you yourself said they need to be put out ion the street as they were not being utilized for what they were getting paid. On a positive side they still get weekends and holiday’s off. Sounds like a win win for all.

  2. Deep South says:

    Perhaps the School Board should takes some lessons from Ms. Laurie Lauria on how to get things done, instead of of the usual take “one step forward and two steps backward” mindset of our current School Board. Who cares how things get done, as long as it gets done.

  3. Mr Roboto says:

    Robots……Put laser armed robots in the schools. Programmed to protect the children and staff. And also put robotic dogs loose in the schools. programmed to attack anyone carrying weapons in the school. And release robotic flies that are equipped with camera’s that monitor all parts of the school every second of the day.

  4. Concerned Parent/Teacher says:

    It’s wonderful that a parent has stepped up to make sure her child and the other children at Old Kings are in a safer environment. It would be wonderful if other parents had the financial resources to provide officers at all of the elementary schools. Unfortunately, though, students at the other elementary schools in the county are left without this added security. Bunnell Elementary, which leads the county in having the highest population of free and reduced lunch students is left to fend for itself until the school board approves a plan. Our students are just as important!

    Once again, money talks…bull#$%! walks

  5. confidential says:

    Kudos to the School Board, Superintendent Valentino, Sheriff Manfre and specially to the student parents Mr.and Mrs. Lauria!
    To confront extreme tragic times we need to make as well extreme maybe somewhat controversial decisions to safeguard the students lives.

  6. PJ says:


    Good choice by the board………….PJ

  7. Profiler says:

    I can see about 50 people now who want to hire off duty secret service agents to guard their child or grandchild all day long, myself included. I guess we’ll just send a check to the school board, who can send a check onto Washington and we’ll have the agents report to the schools.

  8. Reality Check says:

    And the back pedaling starts, Andy Dance needs to go; he is all about the money, his position is only to supplement his income. Our board is a partial disgrace, this cast of misfits we have elected; how many more issues will we let them back pedal around? We have a supernatant that takes money first and asks questions later, how about “thank you for your generous donation, but I will need to pass this on to the FSCB and our attorney first” or is Valentine inadequate at her position? It clearly says all transactions over $10,000 need school board approval, why would she just accept the money. Now we have a fire storm of accusations and time being spent on this issue, my question is what coercive action to the supernatant this will bring. I know if I made a bad decision at work (and yes the buck stops with me in my position) I would be answering to my Manager and facing a corrective action. Politics will play a key role and this should open voters eyes next time the school board elections come around, do not just vote for someone because they are already in that position, look back on all the problems, were you happy with the boards decisions? If not vote them out, because we have that right and we all need to evoke it.

  9. Samuel Smith says:

    Instead of an officer, some nice parent should have donated some competent school administrators and perhaps a governor.

    • Anon says:

      Samuel Smith, right on.

      Why didn’t any of these school board members ask anything about the company that donated the check. What if the check came from the: Bar Room Pole Dancers Union, Medical Marijuana Advocates Inc, or the Synthetic Bath Salts Association. You think they would have asked a question or two?

      When money is thrown at an issue everyone is busy counting.

  10. cindy says:

    I say “You go girl” Mrs. Lauria had great intentions and she got the ball rolling. We need security at all the schools. It’s a crazy time, more and more shootings are happening and now rapes in the hall ways. Lets get more bodies in the buildings and more eyes on the kids. It’s all about making Palm Coast a safer place thats all. If we all work together we can accomplish this.

  11. maryann says:

    Ready….. Shoot…… Aim
    It’s one person in an entire school – when the perpetrator enters in the back of the building when the officer is in the front and a bunch of children get hurt – we will say what a flawed system this is, or where was the officer? It’s the way we are! One armed man cannot guard a school. Let’s be realistic – but if this helps you sleep well at night. Ultimately – if there’s a sick individual – he will find his way around this man. Band Aids, that’s all these expensive solutions are.

  12. Profiler says:

    I think most are missing the question…..who is really paying for this? And what is the physical address of this “company”?

  13. Flagler Beach Bum says:

    Wonder how one would go about setting up a system where people could donate toward doing this for the other elementary schools, perhaps as a memorial donation for the Sandy Hook children?

    I’m retired and my daughter’s grown, but I’d give a few dollars to help protect our Flagler kids.

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