RPS discusses community feedback on overall budget strategies, reductions

(ABC 6 News) – The Rochester Public School board met Tuesday night, first with a special session followed by a regular board meeting where they discussed the feedback given by the community on the overall budget strategies and reductions.

The feedback comes after the district proposed $7 million in reductions before next fall.

The RPS board recommended Tuesday night that a strategy be approved that will be used over the coming months starting this week for the budget to then be reviewed in June.

"A lot of input nonetheless, in fact, 153 pages of input that you all received on some proposals that we shared with you last week," Interim Superintendent, Dr. Kent Pekel, said.

Both those who filled out the online input form and participated in the online input sessions said they liked that this budget proposal does not include reductions in class size.

There was also a general appreciation for trying to avoid reductions to people who provide direct service to RPS students such as teachers and paraprofessionals.

Community members had a strong encouragement for the district to raise revenue for increasing enrollment and drawing more students to RPS online. However, there was a concern about reducing support for mental health services, especially since it has been a growing need during the pandemic. Another concern included budget reductions in special education services and making sure the district is meeting students’ needs.

Additionally, there was a significant theme about not backing off of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion investments. Although there were some counter-voices that suggested that those investments were not as valuable at this time. But, the overall theme was that now is not the time to be stepping back from those efforts.

There was also a lot of discussion about the position of instructional coaches and concerns over reductions in those positions and how they could impact the ability to support the teaching that helps to achieve positive student outcomes.

The school board meeting concluded with a closed session.