By Megan Kelley
The Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education met on June 3 for their last regular meeting before the end of the 2019-2020 school year where they discussed a request for enhancement millage and remote participation.
According to Superintendent Marion Ginopolis, board President Jim Weidman, the board had recently received communication from the West Bloomfield School District regarding an enhancement millage that they are requesting be put on the November ballot.
This enhancement millage would be levied at a rate of 1.4 mils throughout all of Oakland County for 10 years and be distributed equally throughout the ISD on a per-pupil basis, should it pass. This would mean an additional $427 per student, district documents showed.
While the idea of garnering more money for the district is an attractive one, Ginopolis and board members were adamantly against approving the millage at this time.
“Would it be nice to have that extra money for our students? Yes. Is this the climate to be asking our voters for more money? I say absolutely not,” Ginopolis said. “It’s not that I’m not in support of the concept. I’m not in support of doing it without a process in place…I think that it has merit and it does have potential…I’m not saying that I’m against doing it, I just feel like the timing is very inappropriate and by not following a process, you’re really going to mess up the whole thing.”
Board Vice President Birgit McQuiston, who is also apart of the Michigan Association of School Boards, also spoke out against approving the millage.
“I am completely against this,” McQuiston said. “I had the privilege of looking at some of the numbers and if you had the opportunity to look at some of the documentation, it’s even kind of put together a little sloppy and to me it’s embarrassing. I, for various reasons, would not want this pushed forward to my community. In fact…I would want us to take the opposite stand. I would rather pass a resolution against this; I am that against putting this tax to the voters. We have no idea what the state is going to do. We pushed forth a sinking fund and a bond and had that pass…I am convinced our constituents would not be in support of this and would be pretty upset with us if we did support it.”
According to Weidman and Ginopolis, the only districts that spoke in favor of the millage were Avondale and West Bloomfield.
The Oakland County Enhancement Millage must be approved by districts that, combined, hold a minimum of 50 percent of students in Oakland County in order for it to be on the ballot come November
Also in the meeting, after some time debating, the board passed a policy allowing remote participation.
“This has been a long time in the making, this remote participation policy, aside from the current policy committee and last year’s policy committee working on this off and on, it’s come up a few times in the past. So it seems to have come full circle and evolved especially given our current culture,” McQuiston said.
Previously, Weidman and Trustee Steve Drakos had stood fairly strong in their stance against remote participation. However, in light of recent events, the board agreed that a policy that would allow remote participation was necessary, but required certain guidelines to ensure it was not taken advantage of at some point down the road.
“I think this was well worth the long journey it took to get to the final product because this is a well-thought out product. I think it reflects where we want to be moving forward in light of our current day and our current challenges and also having an element of structure to it, that lets everybody know that that’s how we’re going to move forward and it’s not an open-ended conversation,” Weidman said. “I think the board will be very satisfied with this now and well into the future.”
Just in the past few months, this policy has been brought to the board several times for approval but they have been unable to come to an agreement until now.
The board unanimously agreed to the policy that would allow remote participation in both open and closed meetings with the exception of closed meetings that involve “a disciplinary hearing or other issue impacting an individual student or employee”.
In the upcoming coming weeks, the board is expected to complete the superintendent search process and continue bond work throughout the district. The LOCS Board of Education met on June 8 to select their top candidates for the superintendent position after Review press time.