Take a look back at Rocklin 2009

It had it all from banner sports seasons, to school firsts, budgets cuts and untimely loss
By: Susan Belknap and Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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As 2009 comes to a close, The Placer Herald looks back at the good and the bad that made headlines in 2009.
Rocklin Jubilee suspended
Shortly after the year began, a Rocklin tradition was halted as the Rocklin City Council voted to suspend the Jubilee.
Despite reports that last year’s Jubilee attracted one of the largest crowds ever with an estimated 30,000 people in attendance, the annual event was making a dent in the city’s pocketbook.
“It’s economics,” said Mark Riemer, director of Community Services & Facilities. “The Jubilee is a costly event.”
Last year the city spent nearly $134,000 in police overtime pay, part-time pay, supplies and entertainment, Riemer said.
But the cancellation of the  Rocklin Jubilee sparked the start of two other community events — St. a Patrick’s Day festival and parade hosted by the Rocklin Kiwanis Club and Celebrate America, an event that was planned after the cancellation of the Rocklin Jubilee. Both events drew considerable crowds to Rocklin and may become annual events.
Rocklin High celebrated success in sports
The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat was felt by members of the Rocklin High School’s basketball and football teams.
After the second most successful season in Thunder history, basketball coach Steve Taylor and his Thunder varsity team lost the Division II state championship basketball game played at Arco Arena, March 19, to Eisenhower of Rialto with a score of 73-61.
But the Rocklin basketball team wasn’t the only sports team that made it all the way to state championships. On Dec.19, the Thunder football team and hundreds of Thunder fans made the trek all the way to Southern California to watch the team play in the California Interscholastic Federation’s Division II State Football Championship bowl game held in Carson. Even though the team lost 33-30 to Servite High School, overall the football team had much to be proud of. The team posted a 14-0 record for the fall season.
City of Rocklin was faced with budget shortfall
The year 2009 will be remembered by many as the year of layoffs. And unfortunately the city of Rocklin was no exception as it handed out a number of pink slips throughout the year.
New employee agreements were reached with City Manager Carlos Urrutia, Rocklin Police Chief Mark Siemens, Assistant City Manager Terry Richardson and two other officials who were expected to retire. After much negotiation, these employees will stay on as contract employees with little to no benefits in an effort to save the city $600,000 in compensation.
In addition to these deals, the number of city employees has been reduced from 310 to 260. Since August, the city has initiated numerous cost-cutting measures including early retirements, furlough Fridays and hiking recreation fees starting in 2010.
Western Sierra Academy gains approval
After a lengthy approval process, Western Sierra Collegiate Academy, a seventh- through 12th-grade charter school, was approved at the state level.
Western Sierra Collegiate Academy opened its doors in August for the 2009-10 school year. Currently the school holds 150 seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade students located on Destiny Drive in Rocklin.
The school is designed to give students who attend Rocklin Academy, a kindergarten through sixth-grade charter school, an option to continue education with charter schools into middle school and high school.
“It’s a choice school,” Principal Steve Carney said. “Kids want to be here, parents want to be here.”
Whitney High has first four-year graduates
It was a successful year for Whitney High School. Not only did they celebrate the graduation of the first group of students to complete all four years at the school, they also became a California Distinguished School.
Less than four years after the school’s opening, Whitney High became a distinguished school, which is based not only on Academic Performance Index scores, but also on signature practices used at the school.
Additionally, Whitney celebrated the graduation of its first graduates to complete all four years at the school.
Conor Carr, Whitney High’s Associated Student Body president, called the ceremony a “historic moment for Whitney.”
District faced layoffs, agreement reached
With the California state budget problems, Rocklin Unified School District faced the real possibility of layoffs, larger class sizes and cuts to after-school programs.
But thanks to a collaborative effort between RUSD, board members, Rocklin Teachers Professional Association and other groups, an agreement was reached that was able to save approximately 80 percent of jobs from being cut from the district.
The jobs were saved by teachers taking four furlough days during the 2009-10 school year, which helped make up for the million-dollar district deficit.
Measure A passed
Rocklin residents voted in the August special election to continue paying a $30 annual fee that goes toward the maintenance of Rocklin’s 30 parks. Approximately 82 percent of the votes for Measure A were in favor of reinstating the annual fee, according to Placer County Elections Division official results.
For the past 20 years, Rocklin residents have been paying an annual fee of up to $30, which went to park maintenance. In 2008, the park-maintenance tax came before Rocklin voters asking residents to increase the fee to $45 a year. The ballot was approved by 60 percent but that wasn’t enough for the tax to take effect — a two-thirds majority vote was needed.
Rocklin lost two Ruhkalas
This past year two of Rocklin’s most esteemed citizens died. Benjamin Ruhkala, 98, passed away June 28, with his younger brother, Ruben, 97, passing on July 10.
Both brothers were lifelong residents of Rocklin and owned and operated the Union Granite Company in Rocklin with their other brothers until the late 1970s. The Ruhkala family has been prominent in Rocklin’s history with Ruhkala Elementary School, which opened in 2005, Ruhkala Park at Surfbird Lane and Arnold Drive and Ruhkala Road off of Pacific Street all having been named for the family.
Rocklin schools’ API scores best in county
The Academic Performance Index scores of Rocklin schools were the highest in the county among unified districts and districts that service kindergarten through 12th-grade, which were released mid-September.
Rocklin Unified School District earned an API score of 869, which is more than 50 points above the rest of the districts with high schools.
Linda Rooney, deputy superintendent of educational services for RUSD, said she believes an increase of collaborative working days among teachers and staff may have helped boost the scores.
“It’s really a tribute to the outstanding work that our staff, teachers, our family and students have done,” Rooney said.
Rocklin Academy, a kindergarten through sixth-grade charter school on Turnstone Way, maintained the highest API score of all schools in Placer County with a score of 948.
Teen deaths reach high for the city
The deaths of several Rocklin teens have shaken the city.
In April, 16-year-old Jesse Leimbach lost his battle to cancer. He was a sophomore at Rocklin High School.
In September, Whitney High School student Cody Isaacson, 16, was killed after he jumped from a bluff known as China Wall in Lake Natoma and never resurfaced. Nan Hee Pak, 16, was killed in November in a car accident in a crash in Pilot Hill.
Two other people were killed in the crash, which California Highway Patrol spokesman Dan Stark said could have been caused by speed.
Unfortunately for the Rocklin High School community, another death, that of Danielle Alatorre, 16, also occurred this year. Alatorre passed away Dec. 11 at Sutter Roseville Medical Center of causes unknown.