The Acalanes high school district will lay off the equivalent of nearly nine full-time teachers and 18 full-time support staff members to help close a $2.5 million budget shortfall, its governing board decided Wednesday night.

It also approved a contract with its teachers union with a 3 percent raise on a 3-2 vote.

With layoffs, retirements and temporary teachers who are not being asked back, the district is eliminating the equivalent of 16 full-time teachers and 22 full-time support staffers. The district also cut the budget for the administrative office, summer school and a training program for teachers.

The cuts were made to save the district $1.5 million. The remaining $1 million to close the deficit will come from donations from parent clubs and foundations, which have pledged support.

"It's never a pleasure to reduce staff," said Superintendent Jim Negri. "These are real people that have lives that are being impacted."

The budget reductions are needed because of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget. He cut $4.5 billion from the state's education spending next year to help deal with its deficit, estimated at $8 billion at the end of the next fiscal year.

"The district is in great fiscal condition, but the state is in terrible fiscal condition," said Chris Learned, assistant superintendent for business services.

Teachers' union President Lori Tewksbury said that she thought district leadership did all it could to avoid layoffs.

"I know how hard the district has worked to reduce the number of layoffs," Tewksbury said.


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"That doesn't make it any easier on the people."

Her union's contract caused more debate among the board members than the budget cuts. The votes for layoffs were unanimous, but board members Vanessa Crews and Tom Mulvaney voted against the new contract.

When the district is making budget cuts, it can't afford to commit to raising teacher pay, Crews said.

"It's not a sound business decision," Crews said. "I would ask that the association and staff go back to the table and try to find a way that we don't have to take this giant step."

The district will know better in May what it would be able to afford, she and Mulvaney said.

But a majority of board members voted for the agreement, though each voiced discomfort with the financial pressure it put on the district.

Teachers voted to accept the contract before the governor announced his budget proposal, so the district was obligated to stick with it, they said.

"I think at the end of the day we have to balance our fiduciary role with a leadership role," said board member Richard Whitmore.

The turmoil that would ensue if the board rejected the contract would hurt students more than stretching the budget to pay for a raise, he said.

Throughout the evening, the harshest barbs were reserved for the state government.

"I think it's long overdue that the citizens of California stop allowing the Legislature to play yo-yo with our children's education," said board member Kathy Coppersmith.

Reach Paul Thissen at 925-943-8163 or pthissen@bayareanewsgroup.com.