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Union blasts proposed cuts of 22 teachers in Sonoma Valley budget

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Sonoma’s teachers will be on the Plaza again at 5 p.m. today, Friday, protesting proposed cuts by the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.

The teachers were there last Friday afternoon protesting. And they protested at the Feb. 13 school board meeting.

As Caryn Prince read a letter to the board, teachers in the audience stood up holding numbers from 1 to 22 to signify the number of teaching positions that could be cut in the district’s $2.5 million cutback.

The proposed cuts include 22 teaching positions – 13 in elementary and nine in secondary schools; 3.4 administrative positions which includes a vice principal at the high school two half-time vice principal positions at the two middle schools, and a .4 administrator on special assignment.

The teachers are not happy that the teaching staff takes the brunt of the proposed cuts.

“We asked the administration that the cuts be kept away from the classroom,” said Renea Magnani, president of the Valley of the Moon Teachers Association. “We don’t feel that the union was heard and the students honored.”

But school district Superintendent Charles Young cautioned that the proposal is “still under review, without a final decision having been made.”

“We are still considering many things, including other cuts, though of no greater magnitude than has been understood,” Young added.

Magnani said the half-time cutback at the middle school vice principal positions would mean that instead of a vice principal at each school, there would be one covering the two schools. The letter said, “Eliminating them (the vice principals) will have a profoundly negative impact on our students, especially our most at-risk and disenfranchised. It will also have a negative impact on school culture and our ability to implement restorative justice and/or discipline, and place unreasonable burdens on our principals.”

The letter continued, “Why only one administrative position from the District Office?”

Magnani said the one proposed cut from the district office is a TOSA, a teacher on special assignment who supports all K-12 teachers. “We assumed it would be an administrative position,” she said.

The union pointed to three positions created in the past three years it said could be cut. The position are an Assessment Coordinator, a Tech Coordinator and one K-12 ELL (English language learner) Coordinator.

“We didn’t want to suggest cuts, that’s the district’s job,” Magnani said. “But we have three positions that earn over $100,000 (a year) with benefits.”

“We value the work they do,” she continued. “But these jobs could be done by a TOSA at a lower salary or even clerical personnel.”

The district offered a $20,000 early retirement bonus, and 13 teachers accepted. And with leaves of absence and teachers leaving on their own, it seems unlikely that there would be 22 teachers terminated.

“But there would be 22 teaching positions slated to be eliminated,” Magnani said. “We don’t agree with that.”

She pointed out that the district spent $350,000 on management consultants.

And she said the budget crisis is taking energy away from the students. “We want to move away from the budget crisis,” she added “We want to move forward and focus on student success.”

Superintendent Young said the district is still open to discussion regarding any feasible proposal from the teachers.

“We have not made a final decision regarding the number of cuts at the district office,” he said

Young said he expects a final decision on the proposed budget adjustments sometime between March 3 and the March 13 board meeting.

Email Bill at bill.hoban@sonomanews.com.