School board OKs $580K for 18 unarmed guards on district campuses

Santa Fe Public Schools will spend $580,000 for unarmed security guards to patrol campuses across the district in the coming school year following a contract renewal Tuesday for Rio Rancho-based AJF Enterprises Inc.

Gabe Romero, the school district’s safety and security director, said AJF has provided security guards at Santa Fe schools since 2012. The contract, which Romero said is similar to last year’s, is for about 18 guards — eight for Santa Fe High, five for Capital High, one each for the middle schools, and the rest for the district’s K-8 and elementary schools.

Art Famiglietta, head of AJF, which also does some work for the Rio Rancho schools, said the firm’s security officers on school grounds do not carry weapons. “There’s no reason to have any form of weapons at the school,” he said. “That’s not our mission.”

A now-defunct deal with the city of Santa Fe, however, would have put armed police officers on Santa Fe’s high school campuses. In fall 2014, the school board approved a plan to place two armed city officers at Santa Fe High and Capital High. While that plan was derailed by some hesitation at City Hall, as well as a decision by the school district to invest the $70,000 it would have contributed under the officer deal to hiring a dean at the new El Camino Real Academy.

Romero said he still believes that police officers on campus would be good for students. Police Chief Eric Garcia also has said he was in favor of the program. But recent tensions between the school district and the Santa Fe Police Department may make any renewal of the deal difficult.

Earlier this year, police charged a teacher and a principal with child abuse and failure to report child abuse, respectively, following a paperback-throwing incident at De Vargas Middle School. Those charges have since been dropped, but Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Boyd has expressed concerns about the police department’s policies.

Romero said police officers do have a presence on campus — they come by whenever they are needed — but a consistent presence, he said, would be ideal. He said a security guard has a different set of responsibilities than a police officer assigned to a campus would have. Guards, Romero said, can help school officials monitor the flow of visitors on and off the campus. They also can help to cut the truancy rate by keeping an eye on students.

Romero said guards also conduct nighttime patrols and monitor sporting events and graduation ceremonies.

Security guards don’t have the ability to arrest or detain students or teachers. In fact, Famiglietta said he encourages his guards not to touch the students. Instead, he wants them to focus on talking to people to solve problems.

The school board on Tuesday also approved a quarter-of-a-million-dollar contract for 30 crossing guards across the district.

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