Windsor could fill vacant teacher positions

The Windsor School District is poised to fill the majority of vacancies created by teacher layoffs in May, but the move is based primarily on retirements and departures rather than a dramatic change in the district's financial outlook.

Sonoma County's fourth largest school district is currently working under a $40.5 million 2013-14 budget that relies on approximately 25 fewer full time teaching positions — a 10 percent reduction from 2012-13 — as well as maintaining a shortened school year and employee concessions on benefits coverage.

The majority of teachers who have had their layoffs rescinded will fill positions left vacant by retirements or resignations, said Michelle Plumbtree, the fiscal adviser assigned the district by the Sonoma County Office of Education when they fell into negative financial status in April.

"It's not that all of a sudden we are adding back because we are in a better situation. Not at all," Plumbtree said.

"It's going to be tough," she said. "I don't know that people understand that yet. It worries me as a fiscal adviser."

District officials said they believe that still more teachers could be brought back when enrollment projections become reality when school starts in August.

And leaders said the re-hiring of many of those teachers who endured months of uncertainty about their future of the district signals a return — albeit incremental — to fiscal well-being.

"We have not restored our fiscal health but we have made substantial progress toward having a balanced budget," Superintendent Tammy Gabel said.

"We reduced our overall staff by almost 25 teachers and we also had very deep cuts in classified as well," she said. "Through the heavy lifting of our employees and consolidation of programs, we were able to fix a lot of the budget issues."

"It's much more realistic," she said of the district's budget going forward. "It's not a great picture, but it's not as bad as we thought it was going to be."

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