Fewer teachers will grace the halls of John Swett district schools next year.

The John Swett Unified School District board eliminated six teaching positions this week as part of an effort to pare down its 2008-09 budget. The move will save the district more than $330,000 -- about a third of the amount officials estimate they need to cut to meet state budget reduction targets.

The resolution, approved 3-2 Thursday night, was scaled down from a previous plan that called for the elimination of 7.6 full-time positions. Board members Norma Clerici and Brian Colombo voted against the measure.

John Swett's budget decision was the first of many that West County's two school districts must make in light of planned cuts to education statewide. John Swett must trim about $900,000 from its $13 million budget; the West Contra Costa Unified School District board discussed Thursday how to slash more than $10 million from its $300 million budget.

The John Swett teacher reductions will affect all four of the district's schools. Rodeo Hills Elementary in Rodeo will lose one kindergarten teacher; Carquinez Middle School in Crockett will lose 2.4 full-time positions, including one sixth-grade teacher; and John Swett and Willow high schools in Crockett will lose 2.6 positions.

Business Manager Bryan Richards said that because most of the reductions will be done by consolidating sections of classes, such as physical education and science, it's unknown exactly how many teachers will lose their jobs.


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District staff needs to do the math and determine which teachers have seniority before determining who will be laid off.

By law, the district must notify teachers by March 15 of layoffs planned for next year.

The 1,700-student school still must trim more than $500,000 from its budget to offset Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to slash more than $4 billion from schools next year. The board will discuss what else to cut at a regular meeting scheduled for Wednesday; a list of possibilities posted on the district's Web site includes library aides, athletics, music, campus supervisors and more.

"It's hard for it not to have a negative impact on the students when the cuts are this deep," Richards said. "We're looking at every possible way to keep it as minimal as we can."

In neighboring West Contra Costa Unified, board members met with the district's Citizen Budget Advisory Committee on Thursday to discuss what services and programs could be cut from the budget. The majority agreed that the 30,000-student district should consider staff reductions and closing under-enrolled schools.

"When you talk about human beings versus school closures, school closures look really good," West Contra Costa board President Karen Pfeifer said. "School closures are kind of high on my list."

Some of the district's elementary schools are under-enrolled, and district budget officials have estimated that closing a school could yield more than $200,000 in savings per year.

Others suggested the district look at reducing employees' benefits packages.

"It's the elephant in the room, and it has to be looked at," board member Madeline Kronenberg said.

West Contra Costa district officials will hold three community meetings the week of March 10 to gather input on what needs to be cut. The board will discuss cuts during the next few meetings, and members will vote on a final budget reduction plan in April.

Reach Kimberly S. Wetzel at 510-262-2798 or kwetzel@bayareanewgroup.com.