LAMBERTVILLE - The Bedford Public Schools board last week voted down, 4-3, security cameras at the high school to save $50,000 and voted unanimously in favor of purchasing six district school buses at a total cost of $484,542.
The school bus vote passed easily, without much ado. The security cameras were debated for about 15 minutes and the vote was contentious.
Board members Shawna Smith, Mike Smith, Roger Zahm, and Laura Keehn voted against the cameras, while Tim Brakel, Dale Barton, and board President David Taylor voted for them.
"I think we are here first to educate children, and I feel we are in very dire financial times, and this is something that I consider a luxury item," Ms. Smith said. "I feel we have textbooks that we need, I know that we are in the process of buying buses, and I have a problem with the timing of the security system."
Mr. Brakel said he agreed the timing was not great "in any way, shape, or form," but he said that cameras would provide discipline and a deterrent for vandalism.
Both Superintendent Jon White and Ted Magrum, assistant superintendent of operations and finances, said they believed cameras were needed because they would protect students.
"The cameras would simply provide additional security for our staff and for our students," Mr. Magrum said.
"And hopefully they would prevent us from having to deal with some of those events you have read about for the past year or so."
With the Virginia Tech tragedy in April, the shooting of a girl last September at a Bailey, Colo., high school, and the October killings at an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, schools have been focusing more on security.
During public comment time before the vote, Colleen Jan, a teacher at the junior high and president of the Bedford Education Association, said it seemed absurd to add cameras in the high school when the district was looking to reduce so many staff positions.
Ms. Jan said the district instead should retain student support coordinators, who help elementary students with emotional issues, and other staff positions.
Mr. Magrum pushed the purchase of buses, saying that the current buses are about 15 years old and that because of budget concerns the administration has put off replacing buses for seven years.
Six years ago, the school district had 72 buses.
Now it only has 56, with just 43 of these buses assigned to regular routes and the rest used mainly for field trips or when the others break down.
The district has saved about $277,000 by cutting buses since 2000, not including the additional savings of benefits for the eight fewer drivers, Mr. Magrum said.
He said the district has also saved about $250,000 a year in annual replacements, because, before 2000, the district used to replace about five buses a year.