The Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved a $98,000 bid by the consulting firm Kroll to conduct a security audit of the town's eight public schools -- the same firm it endorsed in January before seeking proposals from other firms for the survey.

"We wanted to find the most qualified firm and scope of work to achieve safety and security for our students and staff," said Board of Education Chairwoman Elaine Whitney. "We feel very confident that this is a very productive use of taxpayer resources to that end."

Board members chose Kroll after the school district last month received 12 bids. After consulting with Police Chief Dale Call and Deputy Police Chief Foti Koskinas, they narrowed that field to a short list of three firms with "extensive security experience," said Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon.

The other two finalists bid approximately $81,000 and $89,000, according to Landon and Whitney. They did not disclose the names of those firms nor those of the other nine bidders that lost out.

"I don't think you can put a price on what is best for security for kids and staff," Landon said. "From my perspective, the board was looking for the firm that could do the best all-around job to protect our students, our staff and properties."

Board members interviewed representatives of the three firms Monday night in a closed-door "executive session" before Monday's public session. Call, Koskinas and Deputy Fire Chief Bob Kepchar "actively participated" in the interviews, Whitney told the Westport News.

The proposed study would assess potential internal and external threats, security infrastructure and procedures, as well as determine how school officials can work with law-enforcement officials and other local agencies to ensure the implementation of security "apparatuses" in schools and the community to deal with threats, according to the request for proposals issued by the district March 26.

The audit's recommendations and findings would be presented to the school board and police. School district representatives and police would also meet with Kroll to review draft security reports for each school and a draft district-wide security assessment report. A final security assessment report would then be submitted to the school board in an executive session, according to the RFP.

That assessment would involve Landon, as well as members of the town's school-security task force, which includes police and fire officials.

Funding for the study, however, will require approval from the Representative Town Meeting. That proposal will likely face an RTM review on May 21, according to Whitney. She added that she would meanwhile consult with Board of Finance Chairman Avi Kaner to "confirm the process that works best" for his panel.

If the RTM approves the funding request, the audit would start "as soon as possible," Landon said. The project would take about three months to complete, he added.

Earlier this year, the education and finance boards approved a $100,000 appropriation for an audit conducted by Kroll. But education officials faced criticism from a number of RTM members for not soliciting other bids. Audit funding did not gain majority support from the RTM's Finance, Public Protection and Education committees at a joint Feb. 28 meeting.

To address RTM members' concerns, the school board on March 5 withdrew its requested allocation. One hour before the legislative body was set to review the original Kroll proposal, Whitney announced in an email to RTM members that the board would instead put the audit out to bid.; 203-255-4561, ext. 118;