Despite declining enrollment, Sebastopol district keeps schools separate

Sebastopol School District will retain two distinct campuses for Park Side and Brook Haven schools, but new leaders will be installed at both schools as the 650-student school district launches its strategic plan before the upcoming school year.

District leaders have endorsed the plan that would allow Park Side's kindergarten-through-fifth-grade International Baccalaureate program to remain on the Bodega Avenue campus while Brook Haven's multi-age classroom format at the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school will remain on Valentine Avenue.

The prospect of either closing a school or consolidating the program onto one campus had emerged in the last school year as the school district struggled with continued declining enrollment and endured the budget cuts that had beset school districts throughout the state.

But a turnaround in school funding has given district leaders renewed energy to maintain both distinct programs at the same time two new key hires were made in district leadership positions.

"The fact that we are going to maintain two campuses, having that kind of choice for families in Sebastopol is a real boon," said Park Side parent and strategic committee member Renata Brillinger. "Partly because of the possibility of having to shut down Park Side, there was a real surge in parent and community involvement. I think a lot of parents didn't want to see that happen."

The decision comes at a time when the district welcomes two new hires to key leadership positions.

Linda Irving, currently superintendent/principal of San Antonio Union Elementary School District in Monterey County, will become district superintendent and principal at the Park Side School. Her annual base salary will be $120,000.

Danny Whetton, superintendent of the two-school Vineland School District in Bakersfield, has been hired as principal at the Brook Haven School. His base salary will be $90,000.

Liz Schott, who served as both superintendent of the district and principal of Brook Haven, has taken the superintendent post at Kentfield School District in Marin County.

"In terms of our budget health, it has not been a quick turnaround," Schott said before her departure. "It has been three years of really tightening our belts around accurate staffing and increasing class sizes and furlough days and it has made a difference."

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