Liasion officer subject of joint city, school powwow

August 24, 2018

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

For the first time anyone can remember, the Clare City Commission and Clare Board of Education held a joint meeting in the Clare High School Cafeteria Monday evening.

In his agenda report for the joint meeting, City Manager Ken Hibl wrote, “The primary purpose of the meeting is to provide an opportunity for interactive dialog between the elected officials of the two governing boards to increase awareness and foster cooperation between the City and Clare Public Schools in regard to the tremendously important topic of school safety and public safety in general.”

The meeting was held to discuss an agreement between the two entities that provides a liaison officer during the school year and was the only topic on the agenda for the meeting, which was held after the City’s regular meeting and before the regular Clare Board of Education meeting.

A contract from November 1 through June 30th, 2019 was approved by the City Commission and the BOE earlier. The Board of Education had originally proposed a five year contract with the City and School District sharing the cost of a liaison officer throughout the school year.

The agreement says that Clare Public Schools will reimburse the City of Clare for one half of the annual cost of the officer’s wages and benefits.

Beginning the joint meeting, City Commissioner and Mayor Pro-tem Jean McConnell asked, “How does the liaison officer enhance education for students?”

Steve Stark, BOE Vice-President, said, “My perception is that students know that the police are good guys. It’s a big thing to be able to walk up to them.”

Board Secretary Sue Murawski said, “Having an officer there takes the worry factor away. Students feel safe during the day.”

Clare Mayor Pat Humphrey said, “We support the program. You have three schools. At any point will you need three officers? What is your intention down the road?” He added, “I believe a future federal mandate will have officers in all schools.”

BOE President Ben Browning replied, “We haven’t gotten that far yet.”

City Commissioner Bob Bonham asked, “Do you have information on the percentage of students (that live) in the City and in the townships?”

Superintendent Jim Walter said he didn’t have an answer for that.

Murawski said, “We do know how many we are bussing.” Walter said around 400 students ride the busses.

BOE Trustee Loren Cole said, “Anybody who enters the City of Clare is under our jurisdiction and protection.”

Saying he knew that, Humphrey said, “It’s a big expense for you – it’s a big expense for us.”

Stark replied, “We need to work together to solve our problem.”

Commissioner Gus Murphy asked, “How much longer is one (liaison officer) going to do it?” (be enough)

Walter said the district staff is working on grants for equipment support. He noted that Liaison Officer Brian David is a “unique personality.” He added, “Our hope with you is that the partnership continues.”

Humphrey asked, “Is he (Officer David) sufficient?”

Walter said, “Do we need three (officers)? Yes, but we get a lot of support from officers and regular patrols that come to and by the schools.”

Humphrey said he appreciated the chance to “sit down and talk to you guys.”

During the Public Comment period of the special joint meeting, Jeremy Bear said, “Officer David is good but he is not enough. I work with foster care and this (program) gives students a chance to build a good relationship.” He said they learn the police officers are not the “bad guys,” despite what they have been told.

Humphrey noted at the end of the meeting, “We are going to have to start thinking about a second, or third officer.”

Both the School Board and the City Commission have agreed to the November to June agreement. City Manager Ken Hibl said after the meeting, “We have time to work this out.”

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