By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
More than 45 teaching positions across Sonoma County could be eliminated next fall as districts deal with the uncertainty of a proposed state tax measure on the November ballot and ongoing cuts from Sacramento.
The Sonoma County Office of Education also has warned that about 40 more of its positions could either be lost or cut back for the 2012-13 school year.
District officials said they have to plan for $4.8 billion in cuts that would hit K-12 education across the state if voters reject Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative in November.
“We are doing two parallel budgets,” said West County School District Superintendent Keller McDonald.
One budget will assume $370 in per pupil cuts and another will not, he said. The district, which includes El Molino and Analy high schools, issued notices for more than five positions.
“It impacts more people and (jobs) than last year because we are just getting closer to the bone,” McDonald said.
School districts have until May 15 to either rescind the layoff warnings or make them final.
Last year, 97 teaching pink slips were issued across the county — a number that didn’t include the approximately 40 notices given through the Sonoma County Office of Education.
At least 63 reductions stuck last year. Those final numbers did not include county education office positions.
The number of pink slips issued by Thursday’s state deadline does not include temporary teachers who are notified every year that their spots in the classroom are not guaranteed. Those affected by Thursday’s layoff notices are probationary or tenured teachers.
Sebastopol Union School District is warning the potential loss of 10 full time positions, with additional classified cuts still a possibility.
Superintendent Liz Schott said the district is grappling with uncertainty over the state budget, as well as unknowns about kindergarten enrollment and the potential loss of some programs.
School officials across Sonoma County said they are repeating last year’s strategy of building two budgets — one for if the tax initiatives proposed for November fail and one if they pass.
A third budget change could come when Brown releases his revised budget plan in May.
“If you get the warning that you are potentially (laid off), it’s an emotional cascade. It’s uncertainly about your job, it throws all of your finances into doubt,” said Andy Brennan, president of the Santa Rosa Teachers Association. The district has sent notices warning of the elimination of two full-time teaching positions and as many as three administrators.
At the county education office, some of the 40 or so employees who were notified are not at risk of losing their positions, but might have their hours cut, said Denise Calvert, deputy superintendent of business services.
Many of the cuts are associated with fewer professional development programs and the reduced need for SCOE to provide summer school support.
“With schools and districts eliminating regular ed summer school, we are looking at what our service model is,” said Steve Herrington, superintendent of the Sonoma County Office of Education.
Both Petaluma and Sonoma Valley districts are offering retirement incentives to lure teachers from the top of the pay scale.
The one-year savings in Sonoma Valley could be about $129,000, said Justin Frese, deputy superintendent of Sonoma Valley. The district did not issue any reduction in force notices.
In Petaluma, the district is offering a one time only payment of up to about $25,000 for teachers at the top of the pay scale to retire early, said Superintendent Steve Bolman.
Meantime, the district is issuing pink slips for 10.7 full time positions.
Many districts, even if they avoided layoffs this time around, are instituting furlough days and bracing for 2013-14 when schools reap what voters sow in November, said Bob Cmelak, superintendent of Waugh District in Petaluma. Eight furlough days are in place this year and next.