HOSCHTON -- Principal Jason Lane opened the doors of Mill Creek High School to the community Thursday during the school system's second area board meeting of the year.
Representing teachers, staff, students and administrators from District 2, the meeting, Lane said, offered a chance "for the community to come to an event where the board (of education) is coming to them."
The gathering was one of five -- representing each of the districts in Gwinnett County Public Schools -- held annually in March.
District 2 School Board Member Daniel Seckinger said the area board meetings every year offer a sense of community to a big group of people.
"Despite the fact that we're one system, just like every school is a little different, every community, every cluster and every district is a little different."
Seckinger said despite any differences: "We're all in it together."
"In District 2, parents and community are very involved. We hear a lot of positive things, because people are excited about their school, but it's not unusual for them to bring up the things that concern them as well."
Seckinger added that the event is "just a good forum for us to hear from the community at large."
Opening Thursday's meeting, a local musical group made up entirely of students -- "Hawkapella" -- sang a rendition of the late Michael Jackson's "Pretty Young Thing."
An audience of hundreds applauded, as did Lane, who thanked the singers. "All I can say is, whoever performs next year, good luck topping that," Lane said.
Prior to the meeting, Lane said one of the big draws of the area board meetings is getting to hear from Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks on the upcoming budget.
The superintendent indeed shared the numbers Thursday night on the projected Fiscal Year 2014 budget. He also talked with the group about, among other things, the district's Academic Knowledge and Skills Curriculum, the eCLASS initiative, the new teacher evaluation system and the budget.
Wilbanks' recommendations for the budget include the elimination of all furlough days, which will cost the district $8.6 million and the addition of 18 additional school resource officers -- one for every cluster --at $1.7 million.
The total projected budget is $1.7 billion. Within the total budget is also $1.2 billion earmarked for the general fund or the operations budget.
Area board meetings continue next week, with a 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday at Parkview High.
On April 4, a 7 p.m. meeting hosted by District 1's Carole Boyce will be held at Archer High.
A final area board meeting will be hosted by District 5's Louise Radloff at 7 p.m. April 16 at Meadowcreek High.