More than 70 West Contra Costa Unified School District employees -- including teachers and English-language development coaches -- could lose their jobs next year.

The board will consider tonight whether to eliminate the district's 77 state grant-funded certified positions as a way to reduce spending.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed deep cuts to grant funds for various programs as part of his budget-reduction plan. District budget chief Sheri Gamba said she's unsure how deep those cuts will affect West Contra Costa, but the district legally must prepare to lay off the employees who are paid through grants regardless of whether none, some or all of the funds end up being restored.

"We have to prepare for the worst scenario," Gamba said. "Until we get solid word, we don't want to promise contracts we may not be able to fulfill."

Gamba said it's uncertain how much the staff reduction, if approved by the board, will save the district next year, as officials must figure out who could be assigned elsewhere and who has seniority. It also is unknown how many people the district will end up laying off. By law, officials must notify certificated employees by March 15 of plans for layoffs next school year.

The board also will decide whether to authorize reassigning 55 administrators, including 10 elementary school vice principals, seven assistant principals and seven middle and high school vice principals. The reassignment will give staff the flexibility to move them into the classroom or elsewhere, depending on their credentials and whether there are openings. The move could help the district save money, although it's not known yet what impact it could have on the budget, human resources chief Jessica Romeo said.

The reductions and reassignments are the first major steps officials will take toward reducing next year's $300 million budget by more than $10 million. More cuts are on the way and officials plan a series of budget meetings next week to gather input on what programs and services the community would like to see cut and what they'd like to see remain. The board eliminated 11 vacant, nonteaching positions at a meeting earlier this month, and the board likely will decide on a final budget-reduction plan in April.

School districts across the state are feeling the pain of Schwarzenegger's proposed 2008-2009 budget, which calls for drastic cuts to education totaling about $4 billion. Gamba said the process of crunching the numbers based on estimates has been difficult. By law, West Contra Costa must have a balanced budget in place by June 30 regardless of whether the state has its financial affairs in order.

"We really don't know what we're dealing with," Gamba said.

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

If you go

  • WHAT: A West Contra Costa Unified School District board meeting. The board will contemplate eliminating 77 jobs and re-assigning 55 administrators to reduce costs next year.

  • WHEN: 6:30 p.m. today

  • WHERE: DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave., Richmond.

  • WHAT: A series of community meetings on the WCCUSD budget.

  • WHEN: The meetings are from 6:30 to 8 p.m. as follows:

    Tuesday at Crespi Middle School cafeteria, 1121 Allview Dr., El Sobrante.

    Next Wednesday at Helms Middle School cafeteria, 2500 Road 20, San Pablo.

    March 13 at Kennedy High School cafeteria, 4300 Cutting Blvd., Richmond.