Jessica Mathews /

The Fowlerville Community Schools district is taking security measures to the next level.

The district currently employs a liaison officer from the Fowlerville Police Department but launched a new program last fall and longtime liaison Jeff Soli moved into a new role.

On October 1st, Jeff Soli took over the newly created role of Safety/Security Director. He’s well known throughout the community and district having spent 28 years with Fowlerville Police Department – and 26 years as the liaison officer for the schools.

Under the new program, Soli was able to hire four security monitors who are all either retired police or military. One is at the high school, one at the junior high, and one in each elementary school.

Soli said he hadn’t really been planned on retiring last year but when the new position became available - he was “all-in”. He said it’s great because he gets to spend a lot more time with the kids and isn’t bouncing around from building to building all the time. When he took over in the new role, the majority of students and many parents already knew him because he’s been there so long.

Soli says the security monitors serve as “eyes and ears” and are able to watch out for different things while mentoring kids. He stressed they have a very visible presence so that people know they are there – not as any show of force.

Soli noted the security monitors all have some kind of vested interest in the community, which he thinks really helps. He says they’re well-trained and very experienced retired law enforcement officers while one is a 27-year marine veteran with three kids who attend the district. Soli himself has two kids and six grandkids who attend Fowlerville Schools.

Soli said it’s really more of a passion than a job working in the schools and he doesn’t want to miss any day when any kids are there and would hate for something to happen if he wasn’t – adding “with the way the world is today, I want to be there”.

Soli says they’re able to really interact with the students all day long and get to know them. They’re also present for special events and there’s a lot of mentoring involved, including for those who need a positive role model. Soli takes regular walks with students and can often be seen playing football or basketball with the kids.

Soli said they all work hand-in-hand with the liaison officer – noting before it was just him all of the schools but now they have six people spread out. Officer Tony Coln serves as the district’s liaison officer. He handles any criminal complaints such as vaping tickets or parking tickets or incidents that might go to court such as an assault. Soli and the security monitors work for the district, not the Police Department.

Soli is mostly in the elementary schools and the liaison officer is mostly at the high school and junior high area. That way he says there’s a presence on both the north end and south end, and then the monitors in each building.

Soli stressed the importance of safety and security for students – saying if a bad guy was to show up, they would see a presence and perhaps think twice.

When they’re outside, Soli says they wear purple shirts that say “security” so people driving by will know someone is there. He also bought used police car that he outfitted with security decals that’s parked right out front for prime visibility – which he says is another added measure of safety, along with the liaison officer being there.

The program was made possible through legislative funding approved by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to improve school security across the state. Initial grants were awarded toward the purchase of equipment and/or technology to improve the safety and security of school buildings, students, and staff. Subsequent grants were announced for districts to specifically hire school resource officers and boost security.