That's what Modesto City Schools Board of Education President Kim Spina is looking for in the district's two budget forums, the first of which is at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
The meetings are the public's chance to tell trustees and administration what their priorities should be when slashing $25 million from the district's budget.
"The purpose is to bring about a new culture of transparency and openness to the public," Spina said Saturday. "We're in dire straits, and I think it's always good to get input from all views."
Though trustees might not agree with everyone's suggestions, they will collect and evaluate them, Spina said. Most, if not all seven, trustees plan to attend Monday's workshop.
Details have not been finalized, but the forums likely will have two avenues for parents, staff, students and community members to have their voices heard: through open microphone periods and through small-group brainstorming sessions.
Board Vice President Sue Zwahlen said she "wants to be informed of what district staff has to say and present to the public."
"And I want to listen. I want to get the pulse of what the public feels should be our priorities," she added.
Many popular items will be on the chopping block, including small class sizes and athletics. Officials will also look at more layoffs and employee salary reductions.
This will be the third year in a row California districts have made large budget cuts because of the recession and declining student enrollment.
Modesto City Schools has trimmed nearly $11 million for the 2008-09 school year and about the same amount for 2009-10. Combine that with the $25 million in cuts needed for 2010-11, and officials have hacked off nearly one-fifth of the district's budget, Trustee Cindy Marks said.
"We've cut 18 percent in three years. That's a large chunk," she said. "We've already cut the arts, music, our custodians and vice principals.
"I want to hear from the public," Marks said. "What do they believe is most valuable to their students and their sites?"
Monday's meeting will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Hanshaw Middle School's cafeteria, 1725 Las Vegas St. The second forum will be at the same time Feb. 16 at Roosevelt Junior High School's cafeteria, 1330 College Ave.