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Early retirement program approved by school board

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 11:31 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 11:34 a.m. CST

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“So, if they take this early retirement, we benefit financially, but the negative to that, is our kids lose to some degree,” Superintendent Bob Callaghan said at Monday’s Newton Community School Board of Education meeting.

After much deliberation, the school board passed the second reading of board policy 410.1-410.3, which updates early retirement protocols for qualified employees within the district. The board then voted and approved the next step in the process, which was activating the district’s voluntary early retirement program.

“What I want to make sure that everybody knows is, these are some of our best and most seasoned teachers. We don’t want them to go,” Callaghan said. “It’s a balance and there is no win here. This is really, just a budgetary tool.”

The board proposed a deadline of March 1 for qualified employees to consider accepting the early retirement package. It also discussed having some type of open meeting for eligible staff to ask details concerning the package between now and then.

“This is very open and very transparent,” Callaghan said. “We want everyone to be able to come in and ask us whatever they want. We don’t want to leave it open-ended forever, but we are all in agreement that we are not in any rush, and we’re not going to force anybody into making a decision they are not comfortable with. We felt March 1 was a good deadline.”

“I think leaving it open until March 1 is going to give people a lot of time to consider what they are doing,” board president Andy Elbert said.

Board Secretary/District Business Manager Gayle Isaac explained to the board why the administrative team felt the need to bring the early retirement option to the table for the 2013-14 school year budget, but not use it as a tool every year.

“If staff realize that it’s going to be offered every year, it’s going to be whenever they feel it’s right for them personally and we are using this as a budgetary tool,” Isaac said. “We want to offer them a good perk, but at the same time I only want to use it when we really need it.”

“We needed it last year and from my numbers, we are going to need it again,” he continued. “The shortfall is probably going to be somewhere in the $500,000-plus range. So, I’m going to need it again for next year, but at that point, I don’t want to continue offering it. Then you are going to get a situation where it’s not beneficial for budgetary needs.”

Callaghan indicated that up to 35 teachers and 10 of the district’s auxiliary employees qualify for early retirement currently.  Teachers and nurses who take early retirement would receive 25 percent of their base salary. Administrators and classified personnel would receive 25 percent of the salary they are receiving at the time of retirement.

He and Isaac also stated the district’s Management Fund has the funds to cover the buyouts and to purchase back sick days at a rate of $50 per day. Sick days max out at 180 because that is the amount of time equal to one instructional year.

“They don’t have to retire unless it’s their choice to retire,” board member Nat Clark said. “Early retirement is nothing but, if you’re considering it, here’s something to help you make the decision. If it’s not the decision you’re ready to make, then by all means keep teaching until the end of time.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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