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Resource officer puts emphasis on safety at Perrysburg schools

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Perrysburg Police Officer Mark Lepkowski, left, speaks with the Perrysburg schools’ athletic director Ray Pohlman. Officer Lepkowski will be the high school’s first resource officer.

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Mark Lepkowski said he felt a lot of eyes when he walked into Perrysburg High School for his first few days of work.

That is because he is not a custodian, teacher, or staff employee. He is the school’s first-ever resource officer and wears a Perrysburg Police uniform.

“It helped that some kids knew me at first, and others randomly came up and said, ‘Hey, glad you’re here,’ ” Officer Lepkowski said.

Right now his work space is in the main office, but Principal Michael Short said it will be moved to a place away from the administration to be accessible for students. When he’s not in the office, he’s walking the hallways saying hello to students, browsing through the lunchroom, and checking exits and parameters of the building.

Mr. Lepkowski, a 1984 Perrysburg High School graduate himself, is originally from Detroit. He loves Detroit sports, the University of Michigan, and comics. He has been an officer since 1989 and with the city of Perrysburg police since 1995.

“I’ve known him for 10 years, he is a professional and concerned about kids,” Mr. Short said. “He has teens of his own, which helps him understand them as best as you can. He is a stand-up individual.”

His main role is providing some safety for the students and staff at the high school, as well as making connections with students to prevent crimes and educate them. The last few weeks of this school year he has been learning the district’s new role. Next year he will start the year as the full-time school resource officer at the high school.

Already he had a student come to him with a traffic ticket, and he was able to give the student advice.

“I want to build a rapport with students so they are comfortable to come up to talk to me, or get something off their chest,” Mr. Lepkowski said. “I’m confident I can help out.”

Senior Clayton Gilligan thinks it is great to have a school resource officer because it provides safety “in case something happens.”

Mr. Lepkowski’s annual salary is $76,500, $52,164 of which will be paid by the school district. The city will pay the rest. Perrysburg included the cost in the city’s 2014 budget to maintain the number of police on the streets. During holidays and summer breaks he will be back on his road patrol.

After shadowing other resource officers in Maumee, Penta Career Center, Bowsher, Eastwood, Mansfield, and Marion Harding, Mr. Lepkowski saw officers deal with fights and drugs, and learned how to help manage high-school issues.

“The biggest issue is social media with bullying and threats,” he said. “It is a gray area to decipher it and who should deal with it. Is it a school discipline issue, crime, or something for parents to address?”

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.

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