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CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign school board voted on Monday to renew its contract with the security firm it hired temporarily for its two high schools and three middle schools.

Two security firms were interviewed by district administration, school administration, union leadership and students to take the place of school resource officers for the rest of the year after that program was temporarily suspended because of police staffing shortages.

Of the 51 people in attendance during the Zoom interviews, 38 chose to stick with AGB Investigative Services, which the district had retained for the first two months of the school year.

“(Those in attendance) had the ability to voice questions, comments and concerns for both companies, and that was even the students,” Unit 4 Director of Information Systems and Network Security Valarian Couch said.

The cost of the security firm will be $559,224 for the remainder of the school year. Couch said AGB was responsive to issues the district raised with the firm regarding incidents with security guards at Centennial High School.

“We did have an incident, and I was able to go to leadership, and we were moving fast,” Couch said. “(I was able to say), ‘This person had this problem, and I would like them removed or we want to move them a place and do corrective criticism.’ They were responsive to corrective criticism, to be able to pull them off, talk to them, and say ‘Hey, let’s do this, let’s do this and let’s do this.’”

The district also voted to pay $237,000 per year for the next four years to Evolv Technology for the use of eight dual-lane metal detectors, which the board voted to add at Central and Centennial at its last meeting.

The school resource officer program was an issue of contention, especially throughout the last year. During the summer of 2020, it was mentioned specifically in the board’s anti-racism resolution.

The district didn’t address the future of the program beyond this year, but Superintendent Shelia Boozer was resolute that some sort of security is needed.

“We have people who feel like we don’t need to have any kind of security whatsoever in our school system, and I’m one to stand here and say, I disagree with that,” Boozer said. “I think we need to have some semblance of security and safety in our schools, and when we are able to have a voice at the table and to direct what that looks like, it’s better, and that’s what we have with AGB.

“And the fact that it is a firm that is predominately people of color, for our students to see that and to be able to interact with security who happen to be people of color, is an added bonus for all of our students.”

The board also voted Monday to expand the Edison Middle School renovation budget by $110,000, which includes $78,000 for street and curb repairs, and to give its staff who worked at least 300 hours between July 20 and Oct. 29 each a $1,000 bonus.

“There is no way that we can do enough to thank every one of our staff who have gone — I mean, above and beyond is a cliche at this point,” board member Kathy Shannon said of the bonuses. “There are no words to describe what the staff at every level has done to support our students during this pandemic.

“It’s been more than we could have ever hoped for, and I’m so proud of this district, I’m so proud of that staff. I’m humbled by the commitment that everyone has made.”

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