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Parents share concerns at budget forum

By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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Community members shared their concerns for the school district’s budget cuts at the first public forum Tuesday night. Many in attendance were parents giving ideas and sharing concerns regarding their children’s education. Diana Ruslin, Valley View Parent Teacher Club president, was one of them. She has one child who attends Valley View Elementary School in Rocklin. “Everything is going to be affected,” she said. She attended to be more informed. As PTC president, she has relationships with many of the teachers and admitted many of them are concerned for their jobs. All five school board members were present, in addition to Superintendent Kevin Brown, Associate Superintendent of Business Services Barbara Patterson and Larry Stark, assistant superintendent of facilities and operations – all available to answer questions. “What we really are here for is to get feedback,” Brown said. And the night was full of comments regarding potential cuts like eliminating class size reduction, reserves, “gold handshakes” or incentives for retirement, cutting nursing positions and eliminating the cost of living adjustment, salary increase for the 2008-09 school year – all options for cuts that will affect the schools. “Children in the school district will be affected by it, just as families will be affected,” Brown said. Despite no final budget from the state, Patterson estimated cuts would need to be between $2 and $6 million for the Rocklin Unified School District. “We’re looking at what we’re going to have to cut this year and what we’re going to have to cut next year,” she said. Some parents asked about ways the district could increase revenue, while others expressed priorities for programs they want to see kept within the budget. Kelly Skalet, a parent of one child at Granite Oaks Middle School and another at Rocklin High School, brought up her thoughts on bus transportation. Brown said approximately $9,000 is spent on bus transportation from the general fund – including to and from school and athletic events. Skalet said, as a parent, she would be willing to pay more for athletic bus transportation before cutting athletics. One of the things the district is considering is increasing the cost for children to use transportation, Brown said. “Nothing on this list has been decided,” Brown said, referring to a work in progress preliminary planning for reduction in force worksheet. “Those are people,” Brown said. “Those are folks that won’t be in Rocklin Unified School District next year if we go off that list.” One thing the district has continually supported is keeping community members informed on the budget crisis. Tuesday’s forum at Granite Oaks Middle School was the first of four informal meetings, allowing parents, teachers and community members to have their voices heard regarding the district’s budget cuts. “I think community awareness is extremely important,” Skalet said. “It’s so important to hear what’s important to you and your child in the school district,” RUSD Trustee Wendy Lang told attendees. Remaining forums will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. at the following schools: * Thursday, Feb. 19 at Spring View Middle School multi room, 5040 5th St. * Tuesday, Feb. 24 at Rocklin High School cafeteria, 5301 Victory Lane * Thursday, Feb. 26 at Whitney High School cafeteria, 701 Wildcat Blvd. For more information, go to the RUSD Web site at www.rocklin.k12.ca.us and click on the Budget Updates/Survey link under District News on the top left side. The link includes a survey for community members on budget priorities, a message from Superintendent Brown, a preliminary budget reduction worksheet and more. Contact Lauren Weber at laurenw@goldcountrymedia.com.