By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
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Any of the so-called pink slips for probationary and tenured teachers can be rescinded by May 15.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.