INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Administrators representing the Inglewood Unified school district at a public meeting Tuesday spoke candidly about the precarious state of the beleaguered school system.

Broken Piggy BankCommunity members became hostile after it was announced the district may not be able to reopen in the fall of 2014, reports the Daily Breeze. As it stands, the district is at risk of being “vaporized.”

“You have a real opportunity here,” said Theresa Montano of the California Teachers Association. “You can be a case study in how to do it right. Or you can continue on the trajectory you’re on and be a case study on how to do it wrong.”

Last September, Inglewood Unified became the ninth school district in the history of California to be taken over by the state, according to the news site. But school officials are still contending with a deficit of $17.7 million in the current school year.

La Tanya Kirk-Carter, the district’s state-appointed interim leader, assured the audience that school officials are working toward a solution.

“Some people look at a burning building and run away from it,” said Kirk-Carter. “We looked at this burning building and all three of us ran our butts in here. Because we know what this can be.”

The school district has been declining for years. Over the last decade, the district’s student population fell from about 18,000 to 12,000 students. As part of the takeover, the state gave the district a $55 million loan.

Administrators are also asking teachers to agree to a salary reduction of up to 15 percent, reports the news site. But teachers say they already are among the lowest paid in Los Angeles County.

“People will lose their houses,” said Pete Somberg, president of the Inglewood teachers union. “People will not be able to feed their families.”

If the district cannot set a deficit reduction plan in place, the consequences could include “vaporization” of the district, said Kirk-Carter – something that has only happened once before in California.

“That has never happened to a district of this size in California,” she said. “It would be ugly – extremely ugly.”

Richard Zeiger, the state’s chief deputy superintendent, said his department has the utmost faith in Kirk-Carter and implored community members to be patient.

“You need to know that she is tasked with doing a great many things that people will not like,” Zeiger said. “It’s easy to pick on her, or any of us, as bearers of bad news. But there is a lot of bad news to bear.”

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