On Monday morning, Coronado K-8 School Principal Monica Nelson prepared to give reduction-in-force notifications to 33 of her 65 teachers, telling them they might not have a job next year.
Across the Amphitheater School District, about 250 RIF notices were given to certified staff Monday, sparking reactions that included student gatherings at Ironwood Ridge High School on Tuesday to protest any reductions in teaching staff.
Administrators at Coronado and elsewhere were legally obligated to notify their staffs by April 15 if they may not have jobs the following school year. Depending on the outcome of a May 18 statewide 1 percent sales tax vote, some of those teachers may or may not be asked to come back the next year.
If Proposition 100 does pass, Nelson said she would lose four teachers. If the proposition does not pass and the average student-per-classroom ratio is increased from 29.75 to 37.75, Coronado could lose 10 teachers. Currently the school's average student-per-classroom ratio works out to be about 24 students per kindergarten, first- and second-grade classrooms, while the others range from 28 to 34 students per classroom.
"I am trying hard to balance the needs of our student learners and our goal for student achievement with the reality that is we won't have the same number of people as we have this year," Nelson said.
Superintendent Dr. Vicki
Balentine said the district is doing what it can to minimize the impact of this situation, but with the understanding of how serious the situation is.
"At this point, we have to notify based on the worst-case scenario and we're not going to know what the result is, obviously, until that May 18 election," Balentine said.
The notices given out were based on seniority, along with administrators trying to anticipate content areas that will be affected by the cuts. Some schools will eliminate some classes, while other schools will look to consolidate classes.
"At the middle school level, we know that at least at one or two middle schools we have principals that are saying they aren't going to be offering the same number of P.E. classes or the same number of social studies," Balentine said.
The district currently has to eliminate about $7 million from its budget, even if Proposition 100 passes. If voters turn down the tax increase next month, the district will face an additional $6 million in cuts.
Facing cuts for the 1,100 students at Coronado are programs or content areas such as special small-group reading classes, Spanish, music, art, physical education and the ability to buy new school supplies.
"We have worked so hard to not have the impact of what already has happened, as a result of the legislature's decisions, impact classrooms," Nelson said. "I think people haven't necessarily seen the things that we have already taken care of."
She said people who are seeing the cuts for the first time probably don't know that no one received raises this year, that the district has cut jobs at its Wetmore administrative center, or that administrators and possibly teachers are facing pay cuts and being asked to take mandatory days off without pay next year.
"What I don't want to have happen on May 19 is for people to say 'Oh, I didn't know what the impact was going to be. I didn't know my kid was going to be in a class with 36 kids. I didn't know you weren't going to have athletics except for varsity at the high school level,'" Nelson said.
Coronado is one of Amphitheater School District's Title 1 schools, and it will continue to offer free all-day kindergarten.