Schools cost-cutting ideas offered in Atascadero

Parents, teachers and community members gathered Tuesday night at the cafeteria of Atascadero Junior High School to learn more about impending layoffs and shrinking school budgets.

Atascadero Unified School District board members Donn Clickard, George Dodge and Tami Gunther hosted the informational forum.

“Our board really wanted to make every effort to reach out to the community and inform them of the significant issues affecting our school district,” district Superintendent John Rogers told the crowd of about 30 people.

Atascadero Unified faces $3.7 million in potential cuts from next year’s estimated budget of $33 million because of declining state revenue, dropping enrollment and other factors.As a result, the district is looking to eliminate 27 jobs.

Positions on the chopping block include a principal, seven elementary school teachers, two high school counselors and as many as six special education teachers. Affected employees must be notified by March 15.

On Tuesday, Rogers and county schools Superintendent Julian Crocker walked community members through the particulars of state and county funding and the budget development process. The trustees then discussed costs and proposed cuts at the district level.

Afterward, the school representatives fielded questions about bond measures, parcel taxes, pension costs and transportation costs. One parent proposed consolidating districts to cut administrative costs; another asked about privatizing music and sports programs.

“It’s helpful to know that everyone is on the same page,” said Karen Ellis, who has an eighth- grader and a ninth-grader attending Atascadero schools.

Deanna Bailey, whose child is a sophomore at Atascadero High School, added that more community members need to be part of that conversation.

“We’re going to have to write our legislators. We’re going to have to flood their e-mails,” said Bailey, who works at San Benito Elementary School.

Additional public forums will be held Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Santa Margarita Elementary School and March 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Creston Elementary School. Visit www.edline. net/pages/Atascadero_ USD for more information.