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Are larger classes in Rocklin’s future?

Jobs can be saved with the help of associations
By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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If the school district doesn’t make up for a $4.5 million shortfall for the 2009-10 school year and $1.8 million for the 2010-11 school year, Rocklin schools may look a little different next year. Classes may be larger, administration may be thinner and music may be taught less. These are just a few of the options the district is looking at slashing in order to meet the revenue shortfall. But for each program cut, class enlarged and loss of staff, it means loss of jobs, greater workloads and fewer options for students. And what many concerned teachers, parents, principals and board members expressed at last week’s board meeting, was the importance of working together. Many representatives of the teachers and employees associations stood up and stressed their desire to save jobs. “Zero is the number of loss of jobs we’re willing to deal with,” said Debra Hawkins, Whitney High School principal and president of Rocklin Administrators Professional Association. “There are no acceptable losses.” Timothy Espley, chapter president of California School Employees Association, agreed, adding that the group wants to be a part of the solution. “What can we do to help and what do you need for us to do?” he asked board members. Joseph McLean, chairman of the Rocklin Teachers Professional Association bargaining team said that RTPA also desires to be a part of the solution. But until a final agreement can be reached between the associations and the district, RUSD continues to move forward with cuts that may be needed. “This is entirely and exclusively within their hands,” RUSD Board President Todd Lowell said Friday. Superintendent Kevin Brown presented three potential options the district could implement to meet the budget shortfall – one that would increase kindergarten through third-grade classes to 31 students with one teacher and another that would maintain K-3 class size, but increase fourth through 12th-grade classes by one student and increase the ninth-grade class size to 32 students with one teacher for math and language arts. The last option would be to increase all K-3 classes and ninth-grade math and language arts classes to a 24 to one ratio and increase fourth through 12th-grade classes by one student. Board members favored the third option, but not without adjustments and concerns. “This page (Option C budget reductions) represents the best of the worst-case scenarios,” Hawkins said. She was involved in forming the three budget reduction options for the district. The estimated total reductions with Option C reach approximately $4.5 million. Among the reduction in force options board members will re-discuss are in regards to instrumental music, the option of eliminating kindergarten through sixth-grade summer school and reducing nursing staff. “Music is sometimes what keeps kids connected to school,” RUSD Trustee Wendy Lang said. Susan Firchau, a district nurse, wants to keep the nurse positions. Firchau explained the workloads nurses have, which include hearing, eyesight and scoliosis testing for students, teaching CPR to staff members and providing care to students with special needs and diabetic students. Option C’s reduction in force for nursing is a proposed one full-time equivalent certificated employee. In addition to the district’s proposed budget cuts, revenue can also be made with a little help from parents. Brown said that with raised attendance, the school receives more revenue. Currently Rocklin schools have a daily attendance rate of 95.8 percent, but by increasing attendance by 1 percent, it gives the district a $780,000 increase in revenue – board members recommended skipping early vacations this year to save district money. The district also created a worksheet with the amount of funds saved with RPTA, CSEA, management and confidential employees taking a one percent pay reduction, which equals approximately $591,789; with the same employees taking one furlough day cuts approximately $292,200 and other data. (All preliminary worksheets and budget reduction options are available on the district’s Web site at www.rocklin.k12.ca.us by clicking on the Budget Updates/Survey link at the top left side of the page). After a lengthy discussion on the district’s budget, RUSD Trustee Camille Maben said hope is key in the current situation. “I am hopeful that we are all willing to stand shoulder to shoulder and work this out,” she said. Contact Lauren Weber at laurenw@goldcountrymedia.com.