The night after the Gilbert Unified School District board notified about 400 teachers their jobs are in jeopardy, its members got a little bit of good news from police Chief Tim Dorn.
The board held its annual meeting with the Gilbert Town Council Wednesday night for discussing topics of mutual interest, including the status of a policy that supplies a school resource officer to every high school and junior high school campus.
Dorn's plan reduces coverage at least temporarily for the Gilbert district's five junior high schools in town, but board members were relieved the news wasn't worse. Dorn plans to pull two junior high school resource officers off campus and onto patrol in July and leave them there until new officers currently in training can be brought on board later in the year.
Another will be shifted to Campo Verde High School, set to open this fall.
This leaves two to four officers to cover the junior high schools over the upcoming school year. Dorn added that if the town's application for federal economic stimulus money to hire up to 10 more officers succeeds, the additional officers would be assigned to a junior high campus.
Dorn said staffing patrol units is his first priority, but he values the SRO program, particularly for the high school campuses, where in some cases "our schools are the size of a small community."
The announcement was the lone bright spot in discussions of what is expected to be a disastrous budget year for both the town and the school district.
School board president Thad Stump said it is his hope that by the beginning of the next school year many of the teachers who were just told their contracts would not be renewed could return at the beginning of the 2009-10 school year, as the actual size of what is feared to be a $27 million deficit becomes clearer.
"I'm confident that we overreached last night, that's the good news." Stump said, adding that layoffs within the ranks of school administration would come within the next couple of months.
Gilbert district Superintendent Dave Allison said the entire community has a lot at stake with the decisions being made by the school board. "These are not decisions that just affect the schools, they ripple throughout the community," he said.
Other topics discussed included a summer reading program jointly funded by the town and school district. The Town Council nearly voted Tuesday to halt its $9,000 contribution to the program before deciding to wait until they could talk to school officials about it.
Town Councilman Les Presmyk asked whether the district was planning to cut the program. Assistant superintendent Barbara VeNard said she knew of no plans to end the program. "It's widely used, and cutting it would really be a loss," she said.
Council members gave no indication of how they might vote on the program in the future.