The Board of Education has OK'd an agreement with the teachers union that will allow the district to shorten the next two school years and to temporarily suspend limits on K-3 class sizes, which will mean layoff notices for some teachers.

The vote was 4-1, with Trustee Trish Herrera Spencer casting the no vote.

The agreement, which extends through the 2012 school year, allows the district to increase class sizes in those grades to 25 students per teacher for the 2010-11 school year. That number could rise to 32 students per teacher in December if the district doesn't pass a parcel tax by Nov. 30.

The districts human relations chief, Laurie McLachlan Fry, said she would be giving the board layoff numbers at its next meeting.

The agreement also allows the district to trim five days from each of the next two school years. All told, the district could save as much as $5 million over the term of the contract.

But the district and its teachers could find themselves back at the bargaining table if voters don't approve a new parcel tax and additional cuts are needed, Alameda Education Association President Patricia Sanders said.

"I certainly would like to thank the Alameda Education Association for their cooperation and their willingness to move forward in these tough times," school board President Ron Mooney said.


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Spencer questioned why the agreement was placed on a special meeting agenda Tuesday instead of being considered at a regularly scheduled meeting, and she asked district General Counsel Danielle Houck whether it was legal to consider it Tuesday. Houck said she wasn't aware of any legal reasons it couldn't be considered Tuesday.

Sanders said the agreement was the product of some tough times at the bargaining table, and she said it represents teachers' efforts to help keep the school district afloat during rough economic times. She emphasized that the changes are not permanent. The union voted to accept the agreement on Feb. 26.

"This was not an easy decision for anyone to make. (But) we take it very much to heart what happens to the students and the whole educational system in Alameda," Sanders said.

Meanwhile, the board voted 5-0 to consider putting a proposed replacement parcel tax on a mail-only ballot on June 22. The board is slated to decide whether to ask voters to approve a new tax at a special meeting to be scheduled on March 16.

Without a parcel tax, the district could face cuts of $7 million in 2010-11, $9.8 million in 2011-12 and $17 million in 2012-13, the year its existing taxes sunset, new budget projections offered by Interim Chief Financial Officer Robert Shemwell show. Shemwell's second interim financial report laid out scenarios for cuts to salaries, instructional materials and a host of programs in order to balance the district's budget if more money does not become available.

Contact Michele Ellson at michele@theislandofalameda.com.