SPOKANE, Wash. — Earlier this year, Spokane Public Schools announced hundreds of layoff notices for employees, including teachers, due to a change in the state's educational funding model.
On Tuesday at Shadle Park High School, the district hosted its first of three public meetings designed to provide one-on-one conversations between concerned staffers, parents and students, and the experts best suited to answer their questions.
Sheree Rizzardi, known as Ms. Rizz to her students, is a counselor at the Libby Center. When Spokane Public Schools sent out more than 300 layoff notices last month, she received one of them.
"I love Libby. I love being a school counselor there," Rizzardi said. "I actually cried when the principal called me into her office on April 11th and said I was leaving. So, it's tough."
On Tuesday night, she came to Shadle Park High School in search of some answers.
Like many people, she heard that the state had raised its cap on local levies and wanted to know how it would affect her.
"Are they going to recall some more people? Are we going to vote, you know, are we going to have another levy?" Rizzardi asked.
She was also concerned about librarians. Under the new budget plan, there will be no dedicated librarians. Those instructors will be moved into normal classrooms.
"I know the librarians do a lot of work in our schools, and they teach a lot of classes, and that might fall now onto the teachers," she said.
At Shadle Park, there were roughly a dozen tables, each with a pair of experts focused on a specific aspect of the budget cuts.
"I think this is a great idea," Rizzardi said. "It gives us more information."
The topics ranged from class size to special education to teacher pay. But the two areas most people were curious about were the same two areas Rizzardi was there for: the local levy and the library model.
"The hope tonight was to be able to have a more meaningful conversation with people," said district spokesman Brian Coddington. "It's not everybody's comfort level to come to a board meeting and stand up there and testify for three minutes. And it's probably also not satisfying for everybody."
All told, a few dozen people came to the Shadle Park meeting. That is a fairly small turnout compared to the massive showings at Mead School District board meetings a few weeks ago.
The next meeting will be held Wednesday night at Rogers High School, between 5 and 7 p.m. The final meeting will be Thursday night from 5 to 7 p.m. at Ferris High School.