Superintendent Robert Haley this week asked the school board to act swiftly in deciding on a set of proposals that could reshape Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified — all within the next month.
Fueled by a decade of declining enrollment, school closures and gaping budget cuts, the school board will take up a reconfiguration in March that could have far-reaching impacts districtwide. The most drastic changes include a proposal to re-open La Fiesta Elementary, and to split John Reed and Waldo Rohnert elementary schools into a kindergarten through 3rd and grades 4-6, respectively.
The district is also weighing a plan to add a 6th grade class to Lawrence E. Jones Middle School, expand Thomas Page to include 7th and 8th graders, to develop a year-round school and to build specialty "pathways" at different sites. For example, district officials are proposing to develop a specialty curriculum at Thomas Page focused on science and technology.
In addition to the reconfiguration, the board must decide by the Tuesday, March 6 board meeting on whether or not to move forward with a parcel tax to fill budget shortfalls that continue to pummel the district. Teachers and district staff fret layoffs, even as the Rohnert Park-Cotati Educators Association has taken salary and benefit cuts in recent years.
Parents and school officials acknowledge that it's these cuts to extracurricular programs, arts, sports and music classes, school closures and growing class sizes that have contributed to the district's unprecedented interdistrict transfers and budgetary problems.
Class sizes have grown to an average of 30-1 this year. According to Anne Barron, the Chief Business Officer, to get kindergarten through 2nd classes down to a 28-1 ratio, it'll cost the district more than $70,000 a year. For 24-1, which officials acknowledged is ideal, the pricetag is estimated at roughly $420,000 a year.
"It's been a long and very fruitful year," Haley said at Tuesday night's board meeting. He outlined a set of lofty goals, and he's wasting no time in asking the board to take action.
"Our goal is to create programs, increase student achievement, open schools, attract students, retain teachers and prepare our students for college and careers," Haley said. "We want our identity to be reflective of a district on the move ... a district with an identity."
The ideas include years of feedback from parents, the City Council, teachers and the community as a whole. Major goals are:
- Class size reduction, to allow for a better learning environment for students.
- Open enrollment, allowing parents to choose which school students would attend.
- Communication and outreach, spotlighting what's going on here.
- Innovative programs, such as specialized programs and year-round instruction.
- Develop specialized academic "pathways" for high school students.
- Local funding — the parcel tax.
Prior to any action taken in March, the district is holding special meetings this month for parents, teachers or members of the community to ask questions and get feedback.
La Fiesta Information Night: Tuesay, Feb. 28 at the former La Fiesta Elementary School — 8511 Liman Way, Rohnert Park. Meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.
Parcel Tax Meeting, Feasibility Report: Wednesday, Feb. 22 at Mountain Shadows Education Center, located at 7165 Burton Ave. Meeting begins at 6 p.m.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6 at 7 p.m. at Lawrence E. Jones Middle School.