Fifteen teachers are receiving layoff notices after school district leaders moved to cut music, sports and other programs to help bridge a possible $4.5 million budget gap.

Pink slips went out Thursday to the teachers, who work at Washington and Otis elementary schools, as well as at Chipman Middle School and other campuses.

"The hardest hit by far were the music teachers," said Patricia Sanders, president of the Alameda Education Association. "The next would be teachers involved with class-size reduction."

Along with ending music instruction for first- through third-graders, district trustees are ending the smaller class sizes for high school freshman and cutting back on middle school counselors.

Trustees also pulled $200,000 from high school sports and from the district's two swim centers, a move that athletic directors at Alameda and Encinal high schools say will gut their teams.

The layoff notices come as the Alameda Education Foundation, a community group that raises money for local schools, is about to kick off a publicity campaign condemning the cuts.

Teachers, coaches and others will climb into trash cans outside the school district offices on Central Avenue this afternoon to show that the cuts are "trashing" education. Similar demonstrations will take place on Park and Webster streets and at Alameda Towne Centre.

Also in the works is a billboard slamming the cuts that will be installed near the High Street off-ramp along Interstate 880.


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The campaign's theme is "public education is too valuable to throw away," said Brooke Briggance, executive director of the foundation.

"I am hoping to show the people of Alameda what's happening with public education," Briggance said. "I want to put a face on it. These are not just budget items. This is about people who are losing their jobs and students who are losing their educational opportunities."

Along with the 15 teachers who received pink slips Thursday, six administrators received layoff notices, district spokeswoman Donna Fletcher said.

The layoffs and reshuffling of some positions because of belt-tightening means the district is losing the equivalent of slightly less than 26 full-time employees, Fletcher said.

The effort to bridge the budget shortfall also includes an emergency parcel tax, which trustees have placed on the June ballot. If passed, homeowners would pay $120 annually toward local schools. The tax would be on top of the $189 that property owners already pay.

Businesses would pay between $120 and $9,500 under the tax, which would end in 2012.

"The question is, will the public step up?" said Sanders of the teachers' union. "But we also have to let our legislators know that these kind of cuts are unacceptable."

The Alameda school district is one of many districts throughout California facing a budget crunch in the wake of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to slash at least $4 billion in overall education spending as a way to balance the state's books. Other state programs are also wrestling with the numbers.

About 615 teachers work in the Alameda school district, which has about 10,000 students. Its annual budget is about $80 million.

Reach Peter Hegarty at phegarty@bayareanewsgroup.com or 510-748-1654.