June 04, 2014 - Oxford Community Schools is still hoping to reach an agreement with Oxford Township Parks & Recreation as it pertains to facility use, according to Superintendent Dr. William Skilling, who addressed the issue at the May 19 school board meeting.
"It's really critical that we work well together," Skilling said. "In studies that have been done, the two things that draw families to a community are schools and parks and rec."
Outside of the schools having first priority on facility use, Skilling said they want "parks and rec. to be number two," because they are an extension to a lot of what the schools offer and they meet the needs of adults through community education.
"Parks and rec. has done a lot for our kids, helping out our athletic programs, helping out with volunteerism. Parks and rec. bends over backwards in helping out the school district, helping out the community, so there is no reason we have to have this situation," he added. "I think (Parks and Rec. Director) Ron (Davis) is a great visionary leader and I want this thing to come together."
Davis became concerned in late October/early November of last year when he found out that fees for facility use were coming down the pipeline to parks and rec., but the tension increased in late February when parks and rec. was given a proposed "Fee Agreement," beginning in 2015 school year.
According to the proposed agreement, the district was going to waive facilities use fees, with the exception of usage of the turf (football field) and the pool at the high school and only charge parks & rec. for custodial cost at discounted rate of $25 an hour, instead of the normal $33 an hour. But, even at a reduced rate for custodians, Davis and his department estimated a cost of $97,450 to run all of their current programs
However, Skilling doesn't believe that to be an accurate figure. "We've never given any such agreement to them or a contract that would suggest $97,400," he said.
It was reported in an earlier article that the reason the schools were charging for facility use, not only from parks and rec., but other users as well, was to "break even" in their budget.
"I want reiterate that we're not looking to make a dime off parks and rec., in fact we're giving them the best deal of anyone we're working with including Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts," Skilling said. "If they would just sit down and have a conversation with us we could get through this pretty quickly."
Davis said they're currently waiting for the school to bring a proposal to the Parks and Rec. Commission meeting, so the commission "can talk about it as a whole."
Skilling said that's not how they negotiate contracts
"We don't send our board over to people to negotiate contracts or our agreements," he added. "I don't know how their board works, but I've never known a board to do that."
Davis said any agreements always go to the commission.
"I'm still going on the agreement back in 1998 that we'll pay the fees for the weekend use, until they send a proposal to the commission, so the commission can discuss it," he said.
Davis had stated in a previous article that when parks and rec. absorbed community education from the schools back in 1997-98 that it was agreed upon that parks and rec. "would not be assessed any fees unless the district incurred additional cost like on the weekend when staff would have to be brought in for a special event." Under that agreement, Davis said all students that attended Oxford Schools were considered "residents," even if they lived outside of the school district and were charged at a lower rate.
Because that agreement has been one of the main arguing points for Parks and Rec., Skilling called current Lake Orion Community Schools Superintendent Marion Ginopolis, who was the superintendent for Oxford at the time and asked her about the agreement. He said Ginopolis denied there being any agreement.
She confirmed her conversation and statements with this reporter.
"If there is nothing in writing, I can assure you I never made an agreement. That's not something I would do," Ginopolis said. "I might (have said) 'right now we're not going to charge you,' but I would never say 'you're never going to be charged.' I wouldn't obligate a future superintendent and/or board."
"What I remember is at the time, parks and rec. was running some really great programs and then there were also some community education programs. There were a lot of duplication of efforts (between the schools and parks and rec)," she continued.
"So that's when we combined the two programs and I think that Ron Davis took over the community education so we weren't duplicating efforts."
When told of Ginopolis's comments, Davis said "I'm not going to get into that."
"If that's the case, then we should have been charging the kids that live outside the Oxford school district the $10 non-resident fee because that was the agreement," he added. "I'm not going to get into a 'he said, she said.'"
"Any time you're trying to change things from what the past is, people get upset," Skilling said. "I think what we want to do would be more than favorable if they're open to realizing that we're not stuck to a 1998 agreement that never existed, according to Marion Ginopolis."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.