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Meet Marion

January 05, 2011 - By Laura Colvin

Marion Ginopolis. Photo by Laura Colvin. (click for larger version)
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Marion Ginopolis has her hands full just with day-to-day operation of Lake Orion Community Schools' 7,800-student district.

Throw in a challenging budget-planning season and a bond issue drawing more and more questions from the community as its Feb. 22 date at the polls approaches and the interim superintendent often finds herself working some pretty long days.

But that's why she came to Lake Orion. To work.

"When I accepted the position I made it clear I wasn't here to baby-sit the district," said Ginopolis, who formerly served as superintendent in Oxford Community Schools "It's just not my style to sit around and do nothing. We are working as a team, and we're really moving forward. There's a lot to do."

Planning the annual budget is always a long, difficult process, and the financial outlook for most Michigan schools is still projected to get worse before it gets better.

Although she wasn't ready to go into specifics, Ginopolis said reorganizing the way the district conducts business has helped identify several "issues" that should lead to reduced costs.

"It's incumbent on us to be very lean in what we do," she said, noting several contract negotiations are also in-process.

Since arriving Nov. 22 to fill the position vacated by former superintendent Ken Gutman, Ginopolis has made a point of visiting each of Lake Orion's seven elementary schools, three middle schools and one high school– getting to know the faces and places of LOCS.

"It's important to become familiar with the district," said Ginopolis. "Visiting each school also helped give me a sense of the culture in the district, the needs, the expectations of the district."

Although the Review's recently heard ongoing talk about low teacher/staff morale -- from school employees and community members alike -- Ginopolis said she'd address this issue if it came up, but received a positive reception across the board and no indication of sagging spirits.

Ginopolis said she's also had an opportunity to "get a sense of the community," noting "great meetings" with both Orion Township Supervisor Matthew Gibb and Lake Orion Village Manager Paul Zelenak, as well as various community members.

"These a culture of camaraderie you don't see in a lot of districts," she said. "People really care about one another. Are there problems and issues? Yes, but it's a real community, a real family and like any families we have issues. You deal with them and you move on. I like that."

Before taking the helm in Oxford, Ginopolis worked as a classroom teacher, staff development trainer, principal, and human resources director in Birmingham Public Schools, and assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Berkley Schools.

Recently, she worked as an educational consultant in the areas of digital age literacy and 21st century skills -- Ginopolis said, and frequently reiterates her belief that the technology portion of the proposed bond issue is crucial to keeping LOCS at the level of a "first-rate" district -- and has also worked extensively at the state level as director of two leadership development programs funded by grants to the Michigan Department of Education.

But, she said, her true calling is in the hallways and classrooms of a school.

For me it's all about the kids," she said. "It always has been, it always will be. Always has been, always will be, and I want the best education for kids. They're our future and we need to prepare them for that future."

To that end, Ginopolis said another of her tasks -- and she encounters it daily -- is ensuring people understand what the Feb. 22 bond election is about.

"There's so much misinformation about the bond out there," she said. "Our responsibility is to clarify information, and to suggest that people vote. We can't tell them how to vote but we want to ensure our voters are informed about the impact on our schools."

On Monday, she spoke to the Orion Township Board of Trustees, answering a peppering of questions -- not always politely put -- about the bond issue

Although she couldn't immediately produce answers to some of the more detailed questions, Ginopolis promised to find the requested information and follow-up promptly.

It's all part of the job.

"It doesn't serve any purpose not to let people know what's going on," she said. "I don't believe in hiding anything from the community; it just leads to the erosion of trust if people feel they're not getting answers to their questions."

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