Police liaison position saved
November 16, 2011 - By Joe St. Henry
It appears the police liaison position at Lake Orion High School will avoid the chopping block for next year, despite tight school district and township budgets.
Representatives from Lake Orion Community Schools, Orion Township, the Oakland County Sheriff's Department and Lake Orion Police Department, brought together by County Commissioner Mike Gingell last Thursday, agreed to find a way to keep an officer in the school of 2,600 students.
The school district previously notified the township it could not afford to pay for its half of the position's salary and other expenses in 2012. The latest proposed township police fund budget for next year had the onsite officer cut, as well.
Administrators and teachers at the high school had voiced their strong support for the police liaison officer in recent weeks, noting his role in deterring trouble was "very important" to maintaining order in the school.
"Kids know if they come to school with alcohol or drugs they will be arrested if caught," said Associate Principal Chris Bell.
"When we have a problem with a kid, they have a choice – either work it out with one of us, or go see Officer Simpkinson. Most have no interest in doing that, for he is a lot tougher," Bell added.
During last week's meeting, all of the parties involved agreed in principal to the importance of the job in minimizing problems and helping assure student safety at the state's eighth largest high school. Details of where the funds to pay for the police liaison officer have not been finalized.
Prior to the meeting, Gingell said this is a challenge not unique to Lake Orion, with many school districts and municipalities facing budget constraints. He added that his goal of the meeting was to get all of the parties together in one room and have them focus on what has to be done to keep kids safe. Afterwards, Gingell said he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting. "It was a productive discussion," he said. "A lot of ideas were put out there and that's a start. Everyone is thinking creatively on how to work together to fund the position. This allows the schools to work with the different groups to determine options and go from there."
During the Lake Orion Community Schools board meeting held earlier in the week, members discussed the importance of having the township's and Oakland County Sheriff's Department's support. The district has been looking for options to maintain a police presence at the high school beyond Dec. 31.
"Our goal is to protect the students," Superintendent Marion Ginopolis said. "If there is a way to do this, then we should be able to do it." Other board members agreed, saying they hoped it would be a "cooperative exercise" with all parties involved.
That is exactly what has transpired, according to Ginopolis. "The meeting went very well and it's clear all involved have the same desire and motivation to collaboratively find a financially reasonable solution and, at the same time, provide maximum safety for all Lake Orion students."
The superintendent said she expects as early as this week to have a solution in place to maintain the police liaison officer's presence through the end of this school year next June.
This will allow the parties to then move forward in developing a "long term and sustainable" plan for subsequent years, Ginopolis added.