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School district warns of ‘stormy weather’

Though few community members got out of bed Saturday morning to hear South Kitsap School District Superintendent Bev Cheney’s presentation on the state’s — and district’s — pending budget crisis, those who did attend had plenty of tough questions for the administrator.

“They were good questions,” said Cheney, adding also that they were exactly what she expected. “They were typical questions.”

Cheney’s presentation, named “Stormy Weather,” given at Sidney Glen last Satur-day, seemed to take its title from the windy and rainy morning that might have kept many at home.

Instead, it was nam-ed after the storm clouds many at the SKSD see headed their way because of the state’s predicted $2.5 billion deficit.

The presentation warned South Kitsap parents and other concerned citizens that despite the four-year levy voters passed less than two years ago, the projected state budget cuts could effectively negate any gains the levy may have given the district.

Predictably, the mix of parents, school employees and voters had many questions about the budget crisis and what it would mean if South Kitsap joined other districts in a statewide rally in Olympia, Spokane and Tri Cities on Jan. 14 called a “Day of Education.”

Port Orchard resident Lynn Rasmussen, whose children attend Sidney Glen, said she wanted to make sure the district was “thinking creatively” if it decided to close the schools and allow teachers, students and other employees a non-paid day off to march before the state legislature.

“You will have to really get the word out about why you’re doing this and make them understand,” Rasmussen said, “for it will irritate a lot of the people, and they’ll think, ‘Oh, those teachers, they’re just taking the day off to rally the legislature.”

Rasmussen said a lot of her neighbors work very hard to just put food on their tables and though they try to pay attention to the newspaper, etc., they may not find out until the last minute that the schools will be closed and they will have to make other arrangements for their children.

“Most of the hard-working folks in this community are going to be very mad if they don’t get enough notice,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen suggested giving out fliers at local latte stands.

“Just about everybody in South Kitsap goes through those,” she said.

Bob Parks, the father of district employee Gloria Parks, said the district should make sure what it does will make a difference, because their actions could erode public support and jeopardize future levies.

“The Legislature will just ignore you,” Parks said. “The time to hit them is on election day and tell them, ‘You either vote for education or you’re out.’ ”

Cheney said these suggestions and concerns were exactly what she and others, including the South Kitsap teachers’ union president Cheryl Bond, who was also on hand, needed to hear.

“We don’t want to adversely affect our relationship with our community,” Cheney said. “That’s why we are getting input.”

Cheney said because of the short timeline, the district was not able to give as much notice as they would have liked for the Saturday meeting, but they are planning to hold more before they bring their proposal to the school board on Dec. 2.

“Right now is your opportunity — will be collecting your ideas and input,” Cheney said. “We also want to wake people up and make them aware of the dilemmas we will be facing locally.”

Cheney said she and Bond are willing to give their presentations to any group or individual who asks, even if it is an audience of one. For more information, contact Aimee Warthen at 875-7002

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