Santa Rosa City Schools on Wednesday decided to pay for a part-time coordinator to shepherd the development of a Spanish bilingual-immersion program.

District officials said they hope to open the school for the 2013-14 school year.

"It's a welcome addition to Santa Rosa Schools," said Trustee Tad Wakefield.

The move comes just three weeks after the board balked at the idea of paying a consultant $6,109 to conduct a feasibility study for a Spanish-language program.

The position, which will be 60 percent of a full-time job, will pay $52,000 to $59,700 annually.

Trustee Ron Kristof initially said he did not like the idea of paying for an administrator, but he later voted in favor of it after it appeared the idea had support from the rest of the board.

"I'm gun-shy right now," he said. "I really kind of don't want to hire somebody right now to say, 'Let's build it and they will come.' "

But time is of the essence, said some board members who rallied behind the idea.

"We have made a commitment to the community to pursue it in a genuine, honest way and I think we should pursue it," board member Frank Pugh said.

Community interest is high and the school could be a revenue generator for the district if students from outside of Santa Rosa City Schools' boundaries decide to enroll, said Board President Larry Haenel.

"I think it's a wise investment. I think it's a wise decision," Haenel said.

The project is worthwhile, but finding a location could be difficult, said Santa Rosa Teachers Association President Andy Brennan.

"Space is an issue," he said, suggesting Steele Lane or Lincoln elementary schools as potential sites.

A committee of staff, teachers and community members is scheduled to meet in August to begin planning for parent outreach meetings.

Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at

She can be reached at 526-8671 or