From 13 WHAM

Dozens of parents and community members came together Thursday to learn more about the financial crisis facing the Rochester City School District.

Two community organizations – Roc the Future and The Children’s Agenda – teamed up for a forum on the budget.

It’s typical for school districts to hold meetings as they prepare their spending plans for the upcoming school year. However, this forum was the first of its kind and driven by the steep challenges with which RCSD is dealing, like a multi-million deficit this year and a deficit projected to be nearly twice that amount next year.

Eamonn Scanlon, Education Policy Analyst for The Children’s Agenda, says that getting stakeholders involved now is more important than ever.

“We’re expecting to have a conversation about what went wrong to get the city school district in this fiscal crisis. What do parents and the community really need to know about going forward? Because it’s not over just this year. This has ripple effects,” Scanlon said. “And how they can get involved. What are the things they can, do either at the state level or the local level, to improve education and to deal with this fiscal crisis.”

The city school district is lobbying the state for $35 million in emergency aid. The funding would prevent additional staff cuts this school year and assure staff their paychecks would clear.

However, that money would not touch next year’s separate financial crisis.

On Tuesday, Superintendent Terry Dade announced the projected $60 million deficit next school year could come at the expense of 800 jobs.

Jessica Gustafson has three children in the district and says with more on the line than ever before, parents need to band together and advocate for their children’s future.

“I have real concerns about the state of our school district,” said Gustafson. “I would like to see this budget crisis settled, and more effective planning and budgeting so that we’re spending money that we have and we’re putting money towards programs that work.”

Jackie Campbell, from Roc the Future, says the community won’t be able to “action” its way out of the crisis but says the community needs to be engaged.

“We really want some dialogue about what’s going on,” said Campbell. “I think for too long our community has been kind of quiet about what’s happening. So, we really need an active and engaged public.”

The Board of Education and district will hold a budget town hall at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20 at East high School, 1801 E. Main St. Click here for a full list of meeting dates on the budget.

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