The Blade/Eric Sumberg
TEMPERANCE — Jon White, Bedford Public Schools’ interim superintendent, told board members last week he was “deeply disappointed” they declined to approve his recommendation to eliminate one of the district’s two resource officers’ jobs at the board’s regular meeting last month.
“This is the elephant in the room,” he said, adding he needed board support to properly manage the district’s finances. “If you think this issue is tough, wait until it is time to close another building. . . .”
The board, meeting as the committee of the whole, agreed it will hold another vote on the resource officer position 7 p.m. Thursday at Monroe Road Elementary School.
The vote in November was 3-3, with member Shawna Smith absent. At last week’s meeting, she said she would have voted to eliminate the position if she had been able to attend. “I don’t want to get rid of it, but unfortunately, we don’t have a choice at this point,” she said.
Board President Michael Smith, who voted against cutting the job held by Deputy Randy Sehl, agreed the district does not have the money for it.
The district is in a straitjacket of sorts where spending is concerned.
A deficit elimination plan filed with the Michigan Department of Education binds it to a cost-cutting regimen that leads to a balanced budget by the end of the 2014-15 school year. Officials can change where they make cuts, but not the dollars involved. Keeping the second resource officer would mean finding an equivalent $80,000 annual savings elsewhere.
The district has contracted with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office for the services of the two resource officers, who are assigned full time to the schools. The deputies are popular with students, staff, and parents and credited with preventing fights, curbing drug use, and serving as role models.
The nonprofit BSP CARES has raised more than $30,000 to pay for the resource officer’s position, but donations have dwindled and it is discontinuing its efforts. The funds will be returned to the donors or given to Jackman Road Elementary School to pay for a DARE anti-drug use program.
Deputy Sehl would return to the sheriff’s office rotation if he loses his post at Bedford. Deputy Randy Krupp is the other resource officer.
The board also heard from Michael Wilmot, regional president of the Michigan Leadership Institute, the consultant conducting the district’s search for a permanent superintendent.
He said he expected the search process to take up to 14 weeks, and wanted to begin Friday by talking to district stakeholder groups. Using input from these talks, he said, he would put together a profile of the hypothetical candidate that he would submit to the board Dec. 13.
Mr. Wilmot noted these profiles did not differ significantly from district to district, but that the emphases on the desired personal characteristics could vary.
“All districts want a visionary who communicates and treats people with respect and dignity,” he said.