District 65 offices at the JEH Education Center.

Round-the-clock, armed bodyguards protecting the superintendent of Evanston/Skokie School District 65 were not used in the final month of the agreement, which kept the year-long cost under $500,000.

But not by much. It was $476,757.

As Evanston Now has been reporting, District 65 signed a bodyguard deal with a private security contractor as of July 1, 2021, for $65-an-hour protection for Superintendent Devon Horton. The pact was for 12 months.

The agreement was inked following a series of ugly and racist messages to district officials, as well as the smashing of Horton’s car window in the school administration parking lot.

However, the contract and cost were never discussed publicly by the school board, and only became known after Evanston Now filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the invoices.

Based on the timing of our request, those invoices went through May 2022, and were usually for close to $50,000 per month.

So we then asked for June, to find out the final month’s expenses, and compute a total price tag.

The district’s response indicated that there was no June invoice for what had been termed “executive protection.” There was no explantion as to why the armed guards were not used in the final month of the deal.

A hint, however, came at the most recent board meeting (July 13), when Horton thanked board members for the armed security, but noted that he and his family “are now in a position where we … feel safe.”

Also at that meeting, the board OK’d a new security framework without bodyguards going forward.

The bodyguard deal was an amendment to an existing contract with Skokie-based Phoenix Security. The armed guard section was not renewed.

The original part of that contract, unarmed security checks for district buildings on weekends and holidays, was extended through this summer, at a continuing cost of about $3,500 per month.

The FOIA also says “The District is currently working on a new RFP [request for proposals] for security services and anticipates presenting a recommendation for board approval in August.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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  1. Wait, why was it suddenly not needed as soon as it came under scrutiny? That makes me wonder if it was ever needed, at all and who was benefiting from the arrangement?

    Barbara Byrd Bennett wasn’t the first to exploit the system for personal gain, and she won’t be the last. This entire arrangement should be investigated and, if the results indicate it, Horton should resign or be fired and the Board members who facilitated this should step down.

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