News

School police officer gone?

Layoff may be coming

The teacher or the cop?

This is a quandary Oak Harbor school officials find themselves in as they prepare to announce layoffs to help erase a $1.8 million budget shortfall.

Some residents and school board members are questioning whether to cut the police officer serving at Oak Harbor High School.

The police officer, called a “resource officer” in school parlance, is an officer from the Oak Harbor Police Department who is stationed at the high school.

The school district and the city split the cost for the officer. It has been targeted as a possible cutback for two years. The school district estimates that it would save $50,000 by cutting the position.

Some residents spoke at Monday’s school board meeting saying there is a clear benefit to having a police presence at the high school.

“I think we need to have a deterrent at the high school,” said Maria Kollander. She said without the officer, the two female deans at the high school could find themselves in situations beyond their control. Kollander said would be sad and embarrassing if something disastrous happened as a result.

Police Sgt. Larry Ferguson, who served at the high school for more than three years, understood the budget problems the school district is experiencing, but he also pointed out several advantages to having an officer working at the high school.

When he served as resource officer, he handled calls at other schools in the district. He also developed a rapport with students and teachers, which helped improve their impression of officers.

“It changes people’s perspective,” Ferguson said during the meeting.

He said eliminating the resource officer would come at a time when other districts are adding such a position to combat increasing violence in schools. He pointed to a recent incident in Tacoma where a student brought a gun to school, as well as the Amish schoolhouse shootings.

“If it could happen there, it could happen anywhere,” Ferguson said.

When the high school starts using the former Clover Valley Elementary during the renovation project, the deans will be busy overseeing discipline at two high school campuses and the alternative Midway High School, Ferguson said.

He added that eliminating the police officer would also cut a valuable communication tool the district has with the city.

School board members debated whether to keep the position but didn’t make any decision during the meeting.

“I’m personally very torn on the potential of this cut,” said board member Peter Hunt. He sees the effectiveness of the officer but said other positions would have to be cut if the officer remains. He said he is leaning toward keeping the officer at the high school.

Superintendent Rick Schulte said he would examine whether the position can be retained. He said from what he’s heard, the board may not be willing cut a teaching position, for example, to retain the police officer.

School district officials are trying to resolve a budget shortfall caused by continued enrollment reductions and escalating costs.

School board member Corey Johnson rattled off a list of questions residents have asked him about the district’s budget.

He questioned if the money taken in by school lunches could go toward maintenance projects, and Schulte said it could. He added the school district is looking at raising lunch prices to offset the increase in food prices.

Johnson asked if money received in supplemental Impact Aid could be redirected. Schulte said it’s better to wait until the school district receives that funding before deciding how to use it. That normally doesn’t happen until the summer and it’s never certain how much will be received.

Johnson also questioned the need for elementary school counselors during tight budget times. Schulte answered that the counselors started in 1991 and school staff consider them essential employees.

Officials are also looking at cutting an administrative position in a cost-saving move. Schulte said he wasn’t sure which position would be eliminated.

The school district is expecting to announce any possible layoffs during the May 12 board meeting. It begins at 6:30 p.m. and takes place in the school district’s administration building, 350 S. Oak Harbor St.

Layoff may

be coming

The teacher or the cop?

This is a quandary Oak Harbor school officials find themselves in as they prepare to announce layoffs to help erase a $1.8 million budget shortfall.

Some residents and school board members are questioning whether to cut the police officer serving at Oak Harbor High School.

The police officer, called a “resource officer” in school parlance, is an officer from the Oak Harbor Police Department who is stationed at the high school.

The school district and the city split the cost for the officer. It has been targeted as a possible cutback for two years. The school district estimates that it would save $50,000 by cutting the position.

Some residents spoke at Monday’s school board meeting saying there is a clear benefit to having a police presence at the high school.

“I think we need to have a deterrent at the high school,” said Maria Kollander. She said without the officer, the two female deans at the high school could find themselves in situations beyond their control. Kollander said would be sad and embarrassing if something disastrous happened as a result.

Police Sgt. Larry Ferguson, who served at the high school for more than three years, understood the budget problems the school district is experiencing, but he also pointed out several advantages to having an officer working at the high school.

When he served as resource officer, he handled calls at other schools in the district. He also developed a rapport with students and teachers, which helped improve their impression of officers.

“It changes people’s perspective,” Ferguson said during the meeting.

He said eliminating the resource officer would come at a time when other districts are adding such a position to combat increasing violence in schools. He pointed to a recent incident in Tacoma where a student brought a gun to school, as well as the Amish schoolhouse shootings.

“If it could happen there, it could happen anywhere,” Ferguson said.

When the high school starts using the former Clover Valley Elementary during the renovation project, the deans will be busy overseeing discipline at two high school campuses and the alternative Midway High School, Ferguson said.

He added that eliminating the police officer would also cut a valuable communication tool the district has with the city.

School board members debated whether to keep the position but didn’t make any decision during the meeting.

“I’m personally very torn on the potential of this cut,” said board member Peter Hunt. He sees the effectiveness of the officer but said other positions would have to be cut if the officer remains. He said he is leaning toward keeping the officer at the high school.

Superintendent Rick Schulte said he would examine whether the position can be retained. He said from what he’s heard, the board may not be willing cut a teaching position, for example, to retain the police officer.

School district officials are trying to resolve a budget shortfall caused by continued enrollment reductions and escalating costs.

School board member Corey Johnson rattled off a list of questions residents have asked him about the district’s budget.

He questioned if the money taken in by school lunches could go toward maintenance projects, and Schulte said it could. He added the school district is looking at raising lunch prices to offset the increase in food prices.

Johnson asked if money received in supplemental Impact Aid could be redirected. Schulte said it’s better to wait until the school district receives that funding before deciding how to use it. That normally doesn’t happen until the summer and it’s never certain how much will be received.

Johnson also questioned the need for elementary school counselors during tight budget times. Schulte answered that the counselors started in 1991 and school staff consider them essential employees.

Officials are also looking at cutting an administrative position in a cost-saving move. Schulte said he wasn’t sure which position would be eliminated.

The school district is expecting to announce any possible layoffs during the May 12 board meeting. It begins at 6:30 p.m. and takes place in the school district’s administration building, 350 S. Oak Harbor St.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Dec 20
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates