Clad in T-shirts that proclaimed unity with phrases such as "Team Trotter," about 100 John Swett High School students waved signs and marched in a circle chanting this week as part of a continued protest against budget cuts that resulted in the layoff of popular teacher Steve Trotter and two others.

The students from the Crockett school were boisterous but behaved as they wore armbands with Trotter's name along with those of art teacher Addi Murray and physical education teacher Kelly Hansen.

Trotter, Murray and Hansen received notice last week that their jobs would be reduced to part time next year or eliminated as part of more than $800,000 in budget cuts the 1,700-student district must make amid the state's budget crisis. Four Rodeo Hills Elementary teachers also received notice.

"We're here to fight the board on the budget cuts, and not just Trotter being laid off but all the other teachers," said junior Precious Arnold, 16.

About 50 students gathered by 5 p.m., about an hour and a half before the John Swett Unified School District board meeting Wednesday at Rodeo Hills in Rodeo. The location had been switched from John Swett's administrative offices to the elementary school because of the expected large turnout.

The crowd grew to about 100 by 6 p.m., and about 200 people crowded into the multipurpose room by 6:45 p.m. A crowd of mostly students pleaded with the board to reconsider it's 3-2 decision to lay off what amounts to six full-time staff positions for a savings of more than $300,000.

"It was really touching with so many students and community members speaking on my behalf," said Trotter, who attended both the protest and the meeting. "They didn't march here for sports, they didn't march for band, they just want good teachers."

The rally was the second major protest John Swett students launched in the past week. About 200 students walked out of their first period classes last Friday to march across the Carquinez Bridge, then hiked to the school district offices 4 miles away. Some wore T-shirts bearing a picture of Trotter.

Tuesday was dubbed "pink-slip Tuesday," when dozens of students wore pink to protest the layoffs, and many of the school's 600 students wore black Wednesday to symbolize mourning.

The district informed Trotter, a history teacher, and Murray that they would be reduced to part-time status next year, while Hansen was informed she would be laid off. Trotter, a John Swett graduate and five-year veteran, has a baby and pregnant wife at home and cannot afford to stay on part time. He said he's surprised and frustrated that no board members, district officials or even his supervisor has said a word to him about the situation since the protests began.

"I am annoyed," Trotter said, adding that the students' outpouring of support should indicate to district officials that he's a valued member of John Swett's teaching staff. "If they were to comb through this budget, there's clearly money there."

Students say Trotter is one of the best teachers they've ever had because he helps them with homework, helps them cope with the transition from middle school to high school and is a good friend.

"Basically, they're cutting our art away, our PE classes and the most influential teacher I've ever had," said senior Morgan Eattock, 17. "Mr. Trotter is an influential teacher, so I understand why everybody is here. He's one of those teachers who help you succeed throughout the years."

The board listened to about two hours of comments Wednesday evening, mostly about Trotter; afterward, member Brian Colombo -- who along with Norma Clerici voted against the teacher reductions -- said he felt the board should reconsider the cuts.

Board President Bill Concannon said Thursday that he'd be open to revisiting the issue but is not sure that doing so would be financially responsible.

"I think it's a totally reasonable thing to explore what our options are," Concannon said. "A lot of our flexibility has been taken away by state law. We have to operate within the system we've been given to work with."

Superintendent Michael Roth said the board has the authority to rescind the layoffs, but he thinks such a decision would not be wise until the district has more reliable numbers from Sacramento. If the decision is rescinded, it would mean deep cuts elsewhere, Roth said.

"It would be very risky financially to do so," Roth said. "The economic picture has not changed, we will not get any additional information from the state until the May revise.

Several students said they plan to continue protests until something is done to bring the teachers back.

"In a perfect world, I would like them to not cut any of our teachers," Eattock said. "How are we supposed to learn when we don't have teachers?"

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