By Jim Newell
Oakland Twp. – Oakland Township has upped its offer but still falls far short of the partnership requested by Lake Orion schools and Orion Twp. officials to equally support a middle school liaison position.
During the Oakland Twp. board meeting on June 26, the board members voted to contribute $7,136.56 toward the proposed Lake Orion Community Schools middle school liaison officer.
Lake Orion schools and Orion Twp. had requested a “true partnership” between the three parties, especially since Oakview Middle School is in Oakland Twp., requesting $37,553 – one-third of the proposed cost.
Oakland Twp. board members balked at the proposal, saying they felt they should only pay for Orion students who live in Oakland Twp.
The liaison officer at Lake Orion High School is assigned through the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) Orion Township Substation and is financed through the Orion Township police fund.
The middle school liaison officer also would be from the sheriff’s department and would not only react to incidents, but also would take a proactive approach, meeting with students, parents and school staff, school officials have said. The school liaison would work at all three of Orion’s middle schools, providing preventative education and be a presence in students’ school lives.
Lake Orion Community Schools Superintendent Marion Ginopolis spoke at the Oakland Twp. meeting, as she has done in the past, and urged that board to reconsider.
“We asked you to contribute $37,000 for one third of the cost of the liaison position, which was a fair and reasonable request. It was not to ask you to pay $7,136.56 to protect only Oakland Twp. resident students attending Lake Orion Schools but not the other students who attend a school in your Township because they do not hang their pajamas in Oakland Twp.,” Ginopolis said.
But Oakland officials maintain that a “proportionate share” – essentially pro-rating the students and paying only for Oakland Twp. residents – is the fair way to go.
Oakland Twp. Trustee Frank Ferriolo said he felt the offer was the “fair approach to take.”
“In this particular case, we felt, at least I did, I felt pressured initially because we didn’t have all the information,” Ferriolo said, adding that because Oakland Twp. did not initially have the school liaison position on the agenda that they “were being badgered.”
The issue was on the May 22 and June 12 agendas for discussion. Ginopolis and Orion Twp. Supervisor Chris Barnett were at the May 22 meeting to make a presentation and answer questions, but the Oakland Twp. board removed the issue from the agenda.
The middle school liaison position was on the June 12 agenda, but Oakland officials never informed Orion officials that they were discussing the issue again.
Several Oakland Twp. residents spoke up during public comment of the meeting, asking the board to reconsider its support of the middle school liaison position.
Oakland Twp. had offered $2,912 for the middle school liaison officer for the 2018-19 school year based on the approximately 70 students at Oakview Middle School who live in Oakland Township.
They upped that $7,136.56 to include Oakland Twp.’s share of its resident students at the high school.
“This is an exact duplicate of what we do with Rochester Community Schools and is inclusive of both liaison officers (in Lake Orion), just like we do with Rochester schools and the five liaison officers that they have now,” said Oakland Twp. Trustee Robin Buxar.
“The dollar amount we’re talking about here is a little bit more…than what Orion Twp. and Orion schools were asking for,” Ferriolo claimed.
“If your contributions are based solely on numbers of Oakland Twp. resident students, I will have to assume that you actually counted how many Oakland Twp. resident youth are serviced by the Rochester Area Youth Assistance Program when, at your last meeting, you approved a contribution of $6,336 to their 2018-19 budget – just $700 less than you are proposing for our request. That was surprising as YA services all Rochester students regardless where they live,” Ginopolis said.
“This motion is predicated on (Oakland Twp. Manager) Mr. (Dale) Stuart’s desire to erroneously compare our request to what is done with Rochester Hills Community Schools, which he states is to only support Oakland Twp. resident students in Rochester. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how he figures that or can even keep track of that being that there are close to 15,000 students in Rochester’s 20 schools. And, do the four Rochester Schools liaison officers ask students if they live in Oakland Twp. and, if not, they can’t help them? Are non-Oakland Twp. resident students excluded from any proactive support that is offered by the liaison officers in the Rochester Schools?” Ginopolis asked.
Oakland Twp. Trustee John Giannangeli was noticeably distraught after Ginopolis’ remarks.
“I’m going to try to be civil. First of all, for anyone to even hint that this board does not care about its children in this township is just appalling,” Giannangeli said. “We support it fairly.”
“I said I was going to be civil but quite frankly it almost came to bullying. You have Lake Orion Twp. and Lake Orion schools coming in here and telling us, ‘Here’s what it’s going to be.’ And quite frankly it’s very unfair,” Giannangeli said. “Can I say for the record, I’m glad my children and grandchildren go to Rochester schools.”
Barnett said he and Ginopolis had supplied Oakland Twp. with information for months and wanted to make a presentation to the board and discuss the issue.
“They led us along for 3-4 months and then when we came here it was very unprofessional. There’s been no professional courtesy in this whole process,” Barnett said. “The Rochester formula they tout is flawed. The school building we’re talking about is in Oakland Twp.”
Barnett said that with threats at school, on social media and the other issues that arise in schools, deputies may spend hours gathering information and talking to people.
“It costs us resources in Orion Twp. and when our deputies go out to the schools they don’t ask if the kids are from Oakland or Oxford,” Barnett said. “Oakland Twp. only wants to be responsible for the kids in Oakland Twp. If the fire department responds to a fire at Kroger, they don’t ask for IDs.”
Oakland Twp. does have a voter-approved police millage and nearly $3 million in its police fund.
The Lake Orion school board discussed the issue at the June 28 board meeting, a day after the Oakland Twp. meeting.
“Orion Twp. has been awesome. They’ve done what’s best for our kids all along,” said Vice-President Birgit McQuiston. “It shouldn’t have been a big deal, but the way (Oakland Twp.) chose to handle it on their board made it an endeavor.”
“I don’t know if there’s a viable relationship there right now,” said President Scott Taylor.
“Maybe somebody in their right mind will end up on that board in the future,” said Treasurer Jim Weidman, adding the schools and township could go back in the future and re-negotiate.
Ginopolis said she would talk to Barnett and see how the two boards would proceed with funding the middle school liaison officer.