Juneau, Alaska (KINY) 50 people attended a forum to give their opinions on how the school board should handle their $3 million budget shortfall Tuesday night at Thunder Mountain High School.
The public had different views on how the schools can deal with a $3 million dollar shortfall as they begin their budget discussions. Protecting people over programs, and doing less with less was the theme of many. The district already faces the loss of teachers.
Thunder Mountain Principal Dan Larson said he is getting used to budget cuts, "We have 8 consecutive years of cuts. We always had the mantra that we can still accomplish and complete the mission and still serve the kids. We are hearing a new message from the administration that we have to learn how to less with less. I've never heard those words in a 37 year career."
Brenda Taylor said she would be willing to spend more in taxes to support schools. She noted they don't want to hurt the opportunities
for students, "I think there is a lot of passion because it is pretty impossible to cut $3 million from a budget that we have been cutting for years and years and years. Everybody wants to sound created and find things to cut that aren't essential. Unfortunately, there aren't those areas anymore."
Katie Pittman said the school should have a position to help Tlingit students with native language, "Our support positions are important. One should be defined for Tlingit language and culture. We have very few fluent speakers that can handle the rigors of classroom instruction. We must emphasize that having the language is healthy for the students and the community but it can also boost our overall (test) scores."
Suggestions for cuts include raising class sizes in certain grades, consolidation of sports programs, elimination of an Athletic Director position. Others emphasized the need to keep librarians. Comments on professional development and instructional coaches were mixed.
Mr. Larson suggested improved technology to add online education offerings as he called it the wave of the future.
Kayla Wisner of Mendenhall River urged the board to support more handicapped accessibility at the school like automatic doors and at the playground.
Others urged the district to look at funding for the charter school while others urged them to keep Saturday school open at Thunder Mountain.
Another public forum is scheduled for tonight at 6 pm at the Juneau Douglas High School library.