"Co-chairs of the CUSD Parent and Community Task Force, Michelle Fourmont and Claudine Jones, wearing pins that were created for "sale" as one way to raise more money for the school district." Photo by Christina Macone-Greene

Parents form task force to help generate new budget ideas

CARLSBAD — While school budget cuts continue to loom over the state of California and expect to slice deeper into the 2012-2013 school year, a couple of parents whose children attend CUSD (Carlsbad Unified School District) decided it was time to take action.Last fall, Claudine Jones and Michelle Fourmont established the CUSD Parent and Community Task Force, a volunteer-based grassroots advocate group.

Currently, the task force has 75 members and is growing.

The task force partnered with the nonprofit Carlsbad Educational Foundation with the hopes of educating parents about the happenings at CUSD while corralling different ways to generate new and nontraditional revenue for the school district.

The estimated budget cut for the 2012-2013 Carlsbad school year stands at $7.8 million.

The threat of larger class sizes, furlough days and a shortened school year spurred the mothers towards their mission.

“The CUSD Parent and Community Budget Task Force is a dedicated group of savvy parents who are deeply concerned about the quality of local public education,” said Valin Brown, CEO of the Carlsbad Educational Foundation. “They are equally committed to finding innovative ways to raise awareness and funding to ensure that the resources our schools need to educate our students are in place.”

Jones, a staff accountant, walked way disheartened after hearing of the bleak financial picture following a presentation last October from Devin Vodicka, the district’s assistant of business services.

“Education is an investment and it’s a leap of faith that says our kids are worth getting an education so they’ll be successful future leaders and visionaries,” Jones said.

Jones pointed out that if the district has 20 percent of its revenue taken away, maintaining a certain level of service for the kids could prove to be unrealistic.

And keeping world-class schools in Carlsbad is essential to its economic growth in attracting new businesses to the area and keeping them there.

Fourmont, a mechanical engineer also cares about the quality of education for kids.

“I want the town I live in to be the town that I am proud of, do things in and my kids flourish in,” Fourmont said. “My interest in the CUSD Parent and Community Budget Task Force stemmed from finding other nontraditional sources, because that seemed in my brain, the only way it makes sense to continue a high level of education.”

Both women, who are co-chairs of the task force and also community advocates, are leveraging their networking relationships they have in town for this cause. And it’s working.

“We have a pretty creative population in Carlsbad that is strong in entrepreneurial spirit,” Jones said. “We take care of our own and this is the way we really need to handle this and step up for the kids.”

Currently, the CUSD Parent and Community Budget Task Force have subcommittees that include business/revenue, city, legislative, community awareness/student outreach and social media. Jones and Fourmont open the door to all who can pitch in.

“The parent leadership on this task force is proving to be both highly capable and motivated in pursuing creative solutions to the district’s projected budget deficit for 2012 – 2013,” said Brown, noting how the group is focusing on sustainable revenue.

For example, Jones said, the task force is coordinating some district meetings with a few firms who specialize in potential funding through advertising, sponsorships and corporate naming rights. “These firms are specifically looking at ways to help school districts raise money,” Jones said.

Another way it is diversifying is reaching out to local businesses in exploring new ways to produce revenue. To date, the New Village Arts Theater is donating a percentage of their proceeds from their stage play, “Comedy of Errors,” while Murray Callan Swim School in San Marcos is gifting $10 toward CUSD elementary schools for every swim lesson up until March.

Jones said they are amazed by the generosity of local business owners who realize education is an investment worth making.

Recently, Jones and Fourmont met with Carlsbad city councilmember Keith Blackburn who was receptive to hearing their ideas.

“I am thrilled to death that these parents are doing something instead of everybody being so apathetic and just going along with what’s happening,” Blackburn said. “They deserve tons of credit for taking on this challenge in looking at different ways to save education for our kids, because what happens with our schools, does affect our city.”

To learn more about the CUSD Parent and Community Budget Task Force, its monthly meetings, social media updates or businesses interested in donating, please visit carlsbadunified.com or email iheartcusd@carlsbadunified.com.

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