The Wright School District in Santa Rosa is eliminating more than eight teaching positions and not filling three additional vacancies as it wrestles with looming budget woes.
The move could potentially affect about 15 teachers because some of the positions were held by part-time employees who shared classroom posts.<NO1><NO>
The move was made in a special board meeting Wednesday that was called after negotiations between district officials and the Wright Educators Association reached an impasse last <NO1><NO>week despite both sides working with a mediator.
District officials and teachers said Thursday there is hope that at least some positions for more experienced teachers can be reinstated before the beginning of the school year next month.
Talks are to continue <NO1><NO>today but sticking points remain over the length of the deal, furlough days and benefits pay.
"We are getting into discussions and trying to resolve it," Superintendent Adam Stein said of the potential for bringing at least some jobs back.
Stein took over the superintendent's post July 1 after the school board decided not to retain Superintendent Karen Salvaggio after one year at the helm.
"A lot of (districts) are in dire straits," Stein said. "How can we protect programs for students while being fiscally solvent?"
Stein and a first-year business manager are working to craft an approximately $13 million budget for about 1,600 students spread between three campuses in west Santa Rosa along Stony Point Road between West College Avenue and Hearn Avenue.<NO1><NO>
It was unclear Thursday how the staff reductions would affect class sizes but Stein said the goal was to cap kindergarten through third grade classes at 25 kids and fourth through sixth grade rooms at 28.
Districts throughout California are working with budgetary unknowns as potential cuts loom depending on whether voters support Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure in November. Districts have been told by county and state financial advisers to craft budgets with the assumption that the tax proposal will be rejected by voters.
"The board at this time does not want to lay anybody off, but we also need to be, as most people expect, good stewards of the purse strings," board member Jarred Jones said.
Despite the involvement of a mediator, disagreement remained over the number of furlough days, a cap on benefit rates and whether the agreement would be in place for more than one year.
"The bargainers are very willing to find a compromise and maintain fiscal solvency," said Helen O'Donnell a California Teachers Association representative who has been active in negotiations.
"What is this push for a three-year agreement? It's just frustrating for them. Where is this coming from and why are they suddenly so adament about this?" she said.
But Stein called a multi-year plan prudent.
"It is something the county office asks that we do," he said. "I think the idea in a multi-year budget is to be thoughtful about where you are going."
Wright has earned national accolades for academic achievement with a student population that is 45 percent English language learner and 73 percent socio-economically disadvantaged.
The district-wide base Academic Performance in 2011 was 834 out of a possible 1,000. The state target is 800.
"The teachers will tell you they have enjoyed wonderful programs and it's a great place to work, but unfortunately things change and we are trying to stay as close to our roots as possible," Jones said.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here