NAPOLEON — The Napoleon Area Board of Education approved a resolution to sell school property, and entered into a campus-improvement agreement with the city of Napoleon. The members also thanked retiring superintendent Dr. Stephen Fogo for his 24 years of service to the district, and also heard a pair of presentations and an update on staffing. (see related story, page A3).
During his time at Napoleon (1994-2019), Fogo has served as principal of West Elementary School, special education coordinator, director of student services and as superintendent for the past 8 1/2 years. He thanked the board for the opportunity to serve Napoleon Area City Schools.
“I would like to thank the kids first ... they rock, and they rock because of their parents and this community,” said Fogo. “I would like to thank the staff and administrators, what a blessing they are to the kids here. I would like to thank (treasurer) Michael (Bostelman), you’ve been a true partner, but what makes this district is the school board because you care about kids. You’ve driven me, you’ve scolded me, but you set goals for me to work hard. I applaud all of you, and I know with this board, the district is in good hands. Thank you for letting me serve this district.”
The members thanked Fogo for his service, with long-time member Michael Wesche saying, “Thank you for a job well done.” Frank Cashman thanked Fogo not only for his service, but for personally helping him when he became a board member, saying, “Good-bye to you Dr. Fogo, thank you for your service, and personally you’ve been instrumental in helping me along the way. You showed me the ropes, and I appreciate it and respect the heck out of you.”
Erik Belcher, who was hired in March on a three-year contract to replace Fogo, will begin his duties on Aug. 1. Belcher has served the past seven years as superintendent of Fayette Local Schools.
The board approved a resolution to auction off 2.6 acres of land north of Clairmont Avenue to be used to promote residential development. The terms of the resolution include: the purchaser beginning development within three years of the purchase or providing the school district with a $10,000 annual donation until development begins; development adheres to building codes/restrictions identified in the abutting development (Gerken-Hoeffel Subdivision); and the purchaser/developer/successor must agree to not apply for and/or accept any residential tax abatements offered through other government agencies.
“With all of the houses being built around where that land is, the board felt it was a good idea to have a developer take it over and build more residences there,” said Fogo. “By doing this, it will alleviate us from keeping it up, and it could be a catalyst in getting new families into Napoleon and new kiddos into the schools. The board can accept or reject any offer, but we feel confident we can get a buyer who will build more beautiful houses there.”
At the July 15 meeting of the Napoleon City Council, a campus-improvement agreement with the school district was approved on its second reading.
The entities have been in talks to improve a school-owned stretch of Clairmont Avenue from Westmoreland Avenue to Briarheath Drive since last year. On Tuesday, the school board also approved the campus-improvement agreement.
Per the current agreement, the school district will reconstruct its portion of Clairmont Avenue at a cost of $275,000, then dedicate it to the city. The city would in turn reimburse the district $50,000 for three years starting next year.
The deal also addresses the bus lot area, the stone patch in front of Napoleon Elementary School and ball field parking, and sets out a plan to seek Safe Routes to School grant funding.
Each entity would pay half the consulting cost to apply for the grant, with the school agreeing to participate in an engineering study to address traffic flow in the area of Westmoreland Avenue between Clairmont Avenue and the southernmost entrance to the elementary school, and comply with any recommendations.
“This is another example of the city and the school district putting behind whatever bumps in the road we may have had,” said Fogo. “We would like the city to take over Clairmont, and we’re willing to pay up front what needs to be done. We know the two big issues that need to be addressed there are the parking at our baseball and softball facilities, and bus crossing for our kiddos in the morning and after school.
“We will be working together with the city on trying to obtain a Safe Routes to School Grant, which would be a big benefit in helping us to solve some of these problems. That is a great thing, and we greatly appreciate the city’s help with this.”
On Monday, the Napoleon Police Department announced that officer Brad Strickland has been named the school resource officer (SRO) for Napoleon Area City Schools. An agreement among the city, the police department and school district was announced last month.
In the upcoming weeks, Strickland, who has been with NPD since 2007, will attend the SRO course and other training courses to prepare for his new post.
According to Napoleon Police Chief David Mack, the patrol schedule will not be adjusted until department staffing has leveled out. In the meantime, Strickland will spend as much time in the schools as the call activity and staffing will allow.
Mack said he will be interviewing candidates for the department’s two open patrol positions in the coming weeks, adding once those are filled, he can commit Strickland to the schools. Fogo shared that he’s feeling “bittersweet” about having a SRO for the district.
“It’s a little bittersweet for me,” began Fogo, “I’m excited to have officer Strickland in our buildings, and I thank Chief (David) Mack and Mr. (Joel) Mazur for all their hard work in helping to make this happen. At the same time, I’m sad that we’ve come to a place in society that we have to do this in the first place. In that regard, it’s heartbreaking.”
(C-N writer Taryn Lawson contributed to this report.)