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97 teaching jobs at risk in Sonoma County


More than 97 teaching positions across Sonoma County could be eliminated next fall as school districts seek to weather reductions in state financial support.

Today is the deadline to notify tenured and probationary teachers that their jobs are at risk. The total number does not include temporary teachers who are effectively notified every year that their spots in the classroom are not guaranteed.

Any of the so-called pink slips for probationary and tenured teachers can be rescinded by May 15.

Last year, more than 150 spots were at risk at this time in the budgetary process. But in many cases this year, districts are choosing to impose up to eight furlough days rather than pink-slipping more employees. Others are relying on one-time federal stimulus dollars to stave off layoffs.

In Cotati-Rohnert Park, 28 positions — one fewer than last year — are at risk as the district contends with budget woes caused by declining revenues and sagging enrollment. The school district has closed three schools since 2008 and increased class sizes.

In Old Adobe near Petaluma, 15.2 full-time positions are at risk despite the closure of Bernard Eldredge last spring.

In Santa Rosa, the county’s largest school district gave severance notices to counselors who fill 6.8 full-time jobs. The district also alerted six administrators who could be affected by a board decision to cut one full-time administrator position.

The district said it is able to avoid greater layoffs because it has cut significantly in the past.

“We have made so many cuts over so many years that it has finally gotten to this point,” said Mark Klick, assistant superintendent of human resources in Santa Rosa.

“We did notice more than we will actually end up laying off,” he said.

Adding to the season of financial uncertainty are the unanswered questions around Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to extend for five more years voter-approved taxes on income sales, and motor vehicle registrations. If that effort fails to make the June ballot or if voters say no, an additional $2 billion will be cut from schools statewide.

“Nobody knows what is going to happen in June, so we’ll wait and see,” said Guerneville Superintendent Elaine Carlson of the three full-time positions that have been identified for possible elimination. “I’m hoping we’ll be OK.”

Temporary teachers and non-teaching jobs are expected to be cut throughout the county’s 40 school districts, but those reductions are not tied to today’s deadline.

In tiny West Side School District in Healdsburg, no positions have been targeted, but officials are juggling alternatives for the K-6 school of 163 students.

“My board looked at four different versions of budgets,” said Superintendent Rhonda Bellmer. “We have a certain standard in California that we are trying to meet. We can keep stripping things away, but at what point do you get to the place where you compromise the basic service to your families?”

In Petaluma, 3.8 full-time positions were identified for elimination — far below the 40 jobs targeted this time last year. The district saved jobs by implementing eight furlough days and a using one-time federal jobs money, said deputy superintendent Steve Bolman.

“If it wasn’t for those funds, we would probably be cutting another 19 positions,” he said.

Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

9 Responses to “97 teaching jobs at risk in Sonoma County”

  1. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    There’s an interesting article on CNN titled ‘America needs a budget breakthrough’. It’s not directly about education spending, and it’s about our national budget, not Sonoma County, but here’s a quote:

    “Education. In 1985, when I became education secretary, the department’s budget was about $15.5 billion (or about $32.5 billion, adjusting for inflation).
    It has increased every year since and, today, the president is proposing a 2012 budget for the department that approaches $90 billion; this, on top of the $100 billion in stimulus money it has already received. Another obvious and common-sense question arises: For all these billions spent at the national level, has education improved? The question answers itself.”

    So in a previous post I asked the questions:

    Were does ALL the education money go, and why ARE we ranked second to last nationally? (California) I agree that we are failing our children, but it seems to me there is more as to why we are failing then just a money issue.

    What’s wrong in the educational system, and can just ‘money’ solve the problem?

    Clearly, while unions like SEIU only want to scream about all the cuts, seems that someone has selective memory about all those huge budget increases over the years and “…has education improved? The question answers itself.”

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  2. Skippy says:

    It has never been true that teachers unions are concerned about students. That is not their job.
    They exist to negotiate ever increasing benefits and wages to the members.
    As far as the money is concerned, no amount could ever be enough.
    The old saying that work expands to fill the time allocated applies to school funding as well.
    End public education as we now know it.
    Sell all the facilities to the highest bidders; dissolve all Bd.s and Dept.s of Education nationwide; annull all the unions; fire all the employees and hand the taxpayers back their money and their kids.
    Entrepeneurs will reopen the schools; rehire the good teachers and admin.s; pay them well; expect high performance standards; provide a product parents want and do it for far less than we are currently paying.
    Privatize, privatize, privatize.

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  3. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Ricardo – maybe it is because we spend less per student than the national average, even when everything tends to be more expensive here…

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  4. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    I would like someone with some real in-depth knowledge of our education system to explain something: it’s always ‘the sky is falling, and we’re failing our children’ every time there are proposed budget cuts (and I’m not saying that the sky ISN’T falling, or that we AREN’T failing our children) but we spend billions of dollars in education in California, and yet we’re ranked 49th out of 50.

    Were does ALL the education money go, and why ARE we ranked second to last nationally? I agree that we are failing our children, but it seems to me there is more as to why we are failing then just a money issue.

    What’s wrong in the educational system, and can just ‘money’ solve the problem?

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  5. Kristi says:

    I must agree with consolidate. It’s time to look at Sonoma County as a whole. I think it is time to consider the Principals as the managers of each school and the County Supervisor as their boss. Perhaps having north, south, east, and west Deputy Superintendents.

    Additionally there are several sub-superintendent positions that should be evaluated as well. Does each district need a director of ciriculum and instruction plus an assistant, a Deputy Superintendent and an assistant, and a manager of operations with an assistant?

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  6. Reality Check says:

    This has become an annual ritual. The law requires potential layoff notices be given while it’s still winter. But the state budget, which doles out school money, won’t be known until much later.

    So, it’s annual hand-wringing time. Most of the anxiety could be eliminated by a simple adjustment in the law and the behavior of legislators. Expect neither.

    But, hey, it’s an easy scare story for the PD to write about.

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  7. Steele says:

    Teachers are getting screwed while the “deputy assistant to the executive administrative managers assistants, personal secretary” gets 1 furlough day of which they can use one of their 120 annual vacation or sick days.

    Mean while we pay state and local employees 3 times as much to guard the prisoner scum bags who we have nancy coddled since they were born into believing that they can do whatever or say whatever they want to and it is somehow all our faults. “the poor boy never had a chance, his parents were blah, blah, blah.
    We should spend at least the same amount on our students as we do on our prisoners.

    sorry for the rant

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  8. tdawg says:

    Just finished watching a movie called “The Cartel”. This is a MUST see eye-opening film especially for those that think that “Not Enough Money” is spent on Education or that ALL teachers unions are honorable.

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  9. Consolidate says:

    Are any of the superintendents of the one or two school school-districts in Sonoma County being laid off? Consolidate and realize economies of scale. We don’t need all the little fiefdoms.

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