Three Oceana school districts to get full-time resource officers thanks to state grant

January 17, 2023

Det. Sgt. Kevin Skipski of the Hart Police Department, at left, and Hart Police Chief Juan Salazar on the Hart Public Schools campus. – OCP file photo

Three Oceana school districts to get full-time resource officers thanks to state grant

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

OCEANA COUNTY — Three school districts — Hart, Shelby and Pentwater — will receive grant funds from the State of Michigan to assign a full-time school resource officer to each district.

The districts received letters from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Tuesday, Jan. 17, notifying them of the grant awards.

Shelby Public Schools will receive over $165,000 annually; Hart, nearly $133,000; and Pentwater, over $91,000.

Each district will partner with its local police department to assign an officer to the district.

Det./Sgt. Kevin Skipski of the Hart Police Department will be assigned as Hart Public Schools’ SRO, said Hart Superintendent Mark Platt, while other two districts have yet to determine which officer will be assigned. Shelby will partner with the Shelby Police Department, and Pentwater will partner with Pentwater Police Department.

“The amount Shelby Public Schools has tentatively been awarded for the school resource officer grant is $165,232,” said Shelby Superintendent Mark Olmstead. “This is the total amount of funds granted pending finalization of our partnership with law enforcement over the three-year period of the grant.”

“It puts a designated school resource officer onto our campus full-time,” said Platt. “The grant is good for three years, and we will have Det./Sgt. Skipski with us.” Skipski has been the TEAM (Teaching, Educating and Mentoring) instructor at Hart for several years.

The grant funds will pay for the officers’ salaries, benefits, insurance, training, equipment, materials and other components, said Platt. “Basically, the grant covers half, and the district covers the other half.” The other half could come from other grant sources, or it could be a general fund expenditure, he said. “One thing it won’t be is an expenditure for the city — it really becomes a cost savings for the city, because Skipski’s salary will be paid for between the school and the grant. He will remain a city employee. That way, if the grant ever ends, he could return.

“The board (of education) is 100 percent supportive of this, and Kevin Skipski did all the leg work,” said Platt. “The city has been fantastic about sharing Kevin with us every day. He’s always in the school — he’s just not always there all day.” With the grant funds, the officer will be present on the campus on a full-time basis.

“The kids really trust Kevin Skipski a lot, and they talk to him. That’s why I think he’s the perfect pick.”

“I believe the earliest we can get somebody on is next school year,” said Olmstead of the Shelby district. “It’s important to find the right person to fulfill that role to become a part of your school community. Preliminarily and as part of this grant, we applied with the understanding that we would have a partnership with the Village of Shelby. It’s going to be a great asset to have somebody with a law enforcement background to be a part of our district.

“We’re very excited to have that opportunity — to have that funding boost — to be able to get that position up and rolling,” said the Shelby school leader. “We’ve got great ties with Shelby PD, the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office and the Michigan State Police. We have good relationships with all three of those entities. This will just serve to further build those ties between the school and law enforcement.

“They are very supportive partners — they want to see kids do well and they want to see families do well — and they serve in their role to make that happen,” said Olmstead. “I’m looking forward to it — it’s a great opportunity.”

“It’s a 50/50 split,” said Pentwater Superintendent Scott Karaptian. “For the total cost for the officer, the grant will give half of that to pay the officer’s salary, and then the district will pay half of the remaining salary.

“It’s a very important step to ensure safety within our school building, but it also is another outstanding way to establish stronger school and community relationships.”

Oceana County is well represented among grant recipients. “It was a highly-competitive school safety grant,” said Karaptian.

“Nearly $45 million in funding requests were received for $25 million in available funds,” states the governor’s letter. “A panel consisting of representatives from education and law enforcement awarded the grants, giving priority to school districts, intermediate school districts, and public school academies without a school resource officer currently in place. The panel also considered student enrollment as a factor in the awards – prioritizing those with lower enrollment.”

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