By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
When the Sebastopol Union School District issued layoff warning notices for 12 full-time teaching and one administrative position in March, Superintendent Liz Schott told her employees to expect those numbers to become a reality.
“I told my whole staff, including our administrators, that we are not going to use hope as a strategy,” she said.
Schott said Thursday that the district has issued final layoff notices for every pink-slipped employee, meeting Friday’s state deadline to either finalize or rescind the warnings.
Only a small percentage of Sonoma County teachers who were noticed in March escaped layoff as districts were warned by financial advisers to plan for the worst in advance of Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget expected to be released Monday.
“I’m not sure anybody thinks that Monday’s news is going to make it better,” Schott said.
Brown wants to extend recent increases to the sales, income and vehicle taxes to avoid deeper cuts, but Republicans don’t want the extensions and Thursday announced a push for deeper cuts.
Local school districts are crafting budgets based on the presumption that per pupil cuts will average about $350 next year. But with the $15 billion deficit unsolved, lawmakers are contemplating taking another $4 billion from schools which could potentially double the cuts to per-pupil funding.
At least 63 of the more than 97 full-time teaching positions that were sent warning notices in March will be eliminated in Sonoma County. Some of those positions can be brought back over the summer, but many district officials said they are building their budget plans without them.
“I can only advise people to have their resumes polished and letters of recommendation ready,” Schott said. “When it is that far out of your control, you have to take care of yourself.”
And the numbers firmed up by today’s deadline do not include classified staff, or the temporary teachers who are effectively notified that their spots for the upcoming school year are not guaranteed.
“We lost 28 great temporary teachers,” said Karen Ricketts, director of human resources for Windsor Unified School District.
The district also cut 4.4 full-time permanent or probationary teaching positions.
In Dunham School District, the elimination of a half full-time position means an end to a 13-year-old, twice-weekly Spanish language program for kindergarten- through sixth-graders.
Piner Olivet officials originally noticed a reduction of 13.1 full-time jobs, but that number was reduced to 6.3 by today’s deadline largely because of retirements, said Becky Leffew, director of business services.
In the Wright District, retirements kept six people from being laid off but those jobs will likely not be filled in the fall if the news from Sacramento doesn’t improve, said Superintendent Casey D’Angelo.
In Sonoma County’s largest school district, officials from Santa Rosa City Schools were able to rescind notices for all 6.8 full-time positions that were pink-slipped in March, said Mark Klick, assistant superintendent of human resources for the district.
Other districts that suffered substantial losses were Cotati-Rohnert Park where 13 full-time teaching positions were cut, Cloverdale lost 5.2 teaching jobs, Cinnabar and Harmony both cut two, Two Rock is set to lose three, and Wilmar will lose 1.2 posts.
Today marks the end of a week-long statewide “State of Emergency” campaign spearheaded by the 325,000-member California Teachers Union to urge lawmakers to support tax extensions to lessen the impact of the state’s remaining $15.4 billion deficit.
Republican state lawmakers, who have successfully blocked Democrats’ attempts to levy tax extensions, on Thursday released their own budget proposal.
The plan calls for cuts to state employee pay, funds for the mentally ill and other programs.
Backers of the Republican plan say a recent uptick in state revenues should be enough to maintain current education funding.
Local officials said that plan isn’t good enough, as it is essentially one-time only money.