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Editor's View: Getting schooled on local schools

By: Don Chaddock
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Deborah Bettencourt, the superintendent for Folsom Cordova Unified School District, paid a visit to the Rotary Club of Historic Folsom on Thursday morning to give members an overview of the district. She touted Folsom’s performance when compared with others in the state. “We are ahead of the state, district wide, in all areas (of standard aptitude tests),” she said. “Our teachers do a great job.” She said even in a difficult subject such as Algebra, the district ranked twice as high as the state average. The schools also achieved the state’s overall benchmark for a passing grade. “Every school in Folsom is over 800,” she said. According to Bettencourt, 800 is the magic number schools try to achieve on the testing. She said the biggest challenge facing the district is the state’s budget process. “They are only paying us 82 percent of what they owe us,” she said. “(This means) $13.5 million in lost services to our kids.” She said they’ve been forced to cut counselors by 50 percent and libraries are only open one to three days, depending on the school. Janitors also took a hit. “It is appalling to me we only clean our classrooms every three days,” she said. “Of course, restrooms and kindergarten (classes) are cleaned daily.” They once had 100 custodians for 30 schools and now have half that number of cleaning crew. “We (also) have five technicians for 5,000 computers in our district,” she said. “It is a silly business operation the state has put us in.” What about cutting at the top? “We always hear, ‘Just cut district administration,’” she said. “(That) only accounts for 2 percent of our budget. Our administrators voluntarily took six furlough days. Teachers and others took another three days.” Looking ahead This week you’ll find me on a new stretch of trail recently opened thanks to the efforts of many groups, including the American River Conservancy. As part of our ongoing election coverage, I’ll take a look at the race for Sacramento County Sheriff. I’m interviewing both men up for the job – Scott Jones and Jim Cooper. In the race to replace the late state Sen. Dave Cox, I interviewed one of the contenders – state Assemblyman Roger Niello. He’ll be up against fellow state Assemblyman Ted Gaines. In the race for Congress, I’ve interviewed incumbent Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River) and his Democratic challenger, Dr. Ami Bera, of Elk Grove. Look for these stories in upcoming editions of the Telegraph. Don Chaddock, managing editor, can be reached at (916) 351-3753 or at donc@goldcountrymedia.com.