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Districts turn to retirement incentives programs

Programs, paired with other cost-cutting measures, may help save teachers' jobs

Posted: April 27, 2009 10:01 p.m.
Updated: April 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Local school districts are hopeful that retirement-incentive programs offered to senior teachers will allow them to call back at least some - or maybe even all - of the layoff notices sent to teachers May 15.

"It's a nice reward for a long-time employee, but the real purpose is ... so we can minimize layoff notices," Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger said, speaking of the retirement program.

Under the terms of the programs, the participating district buys the retiring teachers an annuity that can be structured a variety of ways.

Requirements for the program generally include being 55 and over and serving a minimum of 12 years at the district.

"If somebody's been thinking about retirement, this is the time to do it," Winger said.

Despite the payout to the retired teacher, the district still sees a savings.

"The district gets a younger, less-expensive teacher to replace the senior teacher," Winger said.

At Sulphur Springs School District, a total of 29 classified and certificated employees took advantage of the retirement incentive program, Superintendent Robert Nolet said.

For Castaic Union School District, officials were hoping that four to six teachers will take part in the program.

"That will make a tremendous difference," Superintendent James Gibson said.

Gibson projects the district could save about $400,000 a year over the next five years.

School districts have already begun taking back layoff notices, thanks in part to cost-cutting efforts and the availability of the retirement-incentive program for senior teachers.

The William S. Hart Union High School District has 35 teachers who will take advantage of the retirement-incentive program.

"The number of retirees and resignations together will probably equal between 60 and 70 teachers and it's because of that large number (that we're) able to rescind the layoff notices," said Rochelle Neal, assistant superintendent of human resources for the Hart district.

The Hart district issued 96 layoff notices in March.

Because of the retirement program, natural attrition and other measures, the Hart district rescinded all of its layoff notices to teachers and counselors on Friday.

The district will miss the teachers who are planning to leave the district, but experienced teachers still will remain.

"We have 950 teachers. We still have plenty of veteran teachers left on our staff," Neal said.

Days before, the Saugus Union School District decided to cancel 18 of its 35 teacher layoff notices.

Newhall School District officials announced that they were taking back 45 of 109 pink slips given to teachers in March.

The Newhall School District offered the program six years ago when the district was coming off a multi-year track schedule and back to a traditional school calendar, he said.

The district offered the program because the change in the school calendar required fewer teachers, he said.

Newhall School District typically sees three or four teachers retire at the end of the school year.

The retirement incentive program brought 17 educators who are planning to retire, Winger said.

"It looks good that very few, if any, teachers may have to be laid off," said Carole Magnuson, president of the Newhall Teachers Association.

Newhall School District is also considering increasing class sizes from 20 students to 22 in the primary classes.

"That means the teacher who is leaving does not need to be replaced," Winger said.

Seeing experienced teachers leave is tough for educators.

"I always say I hate to see good talent leave," Winger said.

"There's certainly a loss of history and experience," Gibson added.

While teachers with experience are planning to leave the district, "it won't be a mass exodus," Gibson said.

"The teachers we would save have a couple of years experience already," Gibson said.

It's a thought Magnuson echoes.

"We have many new teachers this year, hired in the last two, three years, who are excellent teachers," she said.

While senior teachers typically serve as mentors for the other teachers, some of the retiring teachers may be hired by Newhall School District to serve as consultants and mentors for the district, Magnuson said.

School districts have until May 15 to send final layoff notices to teachers and administrators.

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