Flint, MI—The Flint Schools Board is extending the contract of the district’s current security firm despite concerns around the company’s performance.
The Board voted in favor of Teachout Security Solutions’ contract extension at a meeting on June 27, 2023, with some members noting the move offers the district more time to find an alternative before the contract ends in February 2024.
“We all here are unimpressed by Teachout in their professionalism or lack thereof or whatever,” Michael Clack, the Board President, said during the meeting. “But we still have responsibility for the safety of the students and the staff that’s in the district.”
Over the course of several prior meetings in June, Flint Community Schools (FCS) Board of Education members expressed their worries about the performance of Teachout’s unarmed security guards, also known as safety advocates, at the district’s building.
“I feel like there’s a culture of unproductivity, a lack of urgency,” said Trustee Terae King Jr. at a June 21 meeting. “Our scholars and staff deserve a security company that really prioritizes that, and I haven’t seen it inside. I mean I’ve seen some security officers take their job serious—how it’s supposed to be—but I’ve also seen some sleeping. I’ve seen some argue. I’ve seen some do some outrageous things.”
According to FCS Superintendent Kevelin Jones, Teachout has been contracted with the district for more than five years.
The basic duties of Teachout’s guards, he explained, include preventing unauthorized visits and managing the entry and dismissal of students from buildings. Others include helping direct kids during class transitions, as well as averting and managing altercations, he added.
“What the Board is looking for is [to] continue those functions, but also let’s try to build some positive relationships around scholars, which I believe that there’s a portion of them that do that,” Jones told Flint Beat of Teachout’s guards, noting that guard turnover can also make it difficult to build those relationships.
Aside from Teachout safety advocates, there are also law enforcement liaisons from the Flint Police Department assigned to support safety at Flint Schools.
Teachout’s approved contract extension runs from Aug. 1, 2023 to Feb. 29, 2024. The security firm’s services will cost $426,960 from federal government funding within the FCS general fund, according to Brian Jones, the district’s interim executive director of finance.
The Board voted 6-1 to extend Teachout’s contract on June 27, with Board Assistant Treasurer/Secretary Laura MacIntyre casting the lone vote against the measure.
“They could have even taken it upon themselves to show up and say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry.’ Plead their case: ‘We’re gonna do better. Wow, we really took your comments to heart,'” MacIntyre said.
“I would not have kids going into the school building without security, so I am supporting this for that reason and that reason alone,” Joyce Ellis-McNeal, the Board vice president, said of her vote.
Ellis-McNeal added that the Board should help plan for better security at Flint Schools moving forward.
In an interview, Superintendent Jones said he’s also seen issues with some of Teachout’s guards, like cell phone usage and employees “sitting in chairs when they should be moving around with the students.”
But he said he’s observed positives as well.
“I’ve seen a lot of our Teachout security agents on top of things,” Jones said. “They’re walking around with the kids. They’re having good conversations with children. They’re being what they’re supposed to be to children—not just a security guard, but they’re being an advocate.”
The superintendent also noted that issues with the firm’s guards can be raised to a school’s principal or the district’s student services director.
During a prior June 14 meeting, Board Treasurer Dylan Luna asked Bart Bennett, Teachout’s director of special services, about the company culture and the firm’s expectations of its guards.
“We’re trying to build rapport with people,” Bennett said in response. “So when there are situations that escalate, we can try to bring them down quickly. So we also want our staff to make positive contact with students.”
Bennett added that he believes Teachout is “underutilized” in Flint Schools and wished that the firm was more involved in the district’s broader security discussions.
With respect to issues around cell phone usage, Bennett said “when those do come up, we do address them immediately. We’ve terminated employment for it. We’ve suspended employees for it.”
All in all, Bennett told the Board that “I don’t think we’re doing as bad as you think we are. But I’m open to that discussion [of] how we can improve, absolutely.”