(Shenandoah) – Longtime Shenandoah School District staffers have until mid-August to decide whether they want to retire at the end of next school year.
Meeting in special session late Monday afternoon, the Shenandoah School Board approved the early retirement incentives for three staff members stepping down at the end of the current school year: High School Associate Brent Wilcox, High School Business Instructor, Girls Cross Country Coach and Assistant Track Coach Liz Skillern and Kindergarten Instructor Tammie Stettler. Considerable discussion followed on whether to offer the current incentive package for staffers retiring next year. Shenandoah School Superintendent Dr. Kerri Nelson says the district received a strong response to the incentives the first two years they were offered. However, limited numbers of personnel have retired the last two years – despite an increase in the financial payouts.
“I’m looking at the list of people based on age and their years of service that may be able to do this, or might now,” said Nelson, “and, I’m thinking to myself ‘I don’t want any of these people to leave, because they’re very valuable, and how do we replace them?’ I’m also looking at the fact that it would be helpful if we had two or three more this year, and a few more next year that would consider the opportunity.”
Nelson questioned the feasibility of extending the incentives for another school year.
“We probably have used it one too many years in a row,” she said. “Normally, what happens is when you offer it too frequently, you see a decline in use, because people count on it, and think it will be there next year. I’d like it make it available every year. I think it’s great, and a nice benefit for people, but it’s not achieving the financial benefit we might need.”
Nelson gave the board three options regarding the current incentives: 1) leave the package as is, 2) extend the application deadline for this school year for another three weeks – which Nelson felt would have little or no effect on the current numbers – or 3) consider offering incentives for staff members who resign now, but not retire until the end of the 2021-22 school year. Staffers who wait until next school year to retire would not receive incentives. Board member Jeff Hiser says motivation would not be a problem for instructors who decide to retire a year ahead of time.
“I don’t agree with the lack of motivation,” said Hiser. “That’s why we have master teachers going in, that’s why we have building principals. I don’t think anybody that’s on that list is going to slack off their last year. I don’t think they want to go out that way. I think it’s a positive thing, especially if you don’t know whether or not you’re going to have it next year.”
Board member Kathy Langley, however, weighed the pros and cons of continuing the incentive package.
“My concern is – and I get what you’re saying, Jeff, no one’s purposely going to want to slack off,” said Langley. “But, if I’m hearing the ocean in the background calling me, my natural instinct isn’t nose to the grindstone while Johnny’s being ornery, and you’re thinking, ‘man, I’ve got three more weeks, or two more months.’ I don’t think anybody would do that on purpose, but I think natural instinct, we might have a tendency to maybe not even realize it, but not give 200%.”
After further discussion, the board voted on two motions. By a 3-to-2 vote, the board rejected a resolution stating an employee must resign by the end of the current school year to receive incentives for retiring at the end of next school year. Board members Langley, Jean Fichter, and Adam Van Der Vliet voted against the resolution, while Hiser and Darrin Bouray voted in favor. By a 4-to-1 vote, the board approved a motion allowing staffers until August 15th to resign in order to receive incentives for retiring at the end of next school year. Langley cast the lone dissenting vote.
In other business Monday, the board…
--- approved the termination of Elizabeth Plettner as high school associate for what school officials describe as “job abandonment.”
--- approved the submission of the IGNITE Online Learning Application for increased staffing, and the Edgenuity software in connection with its remote learning program expansion.
--- approved the acknowledgement of the board’s opening proposal to the Shenandoah Education Association for next year’s master contract. The board proposes a 2.21% total package increase for instructors, with an additional cost to the district of $145,999. The district’s base salary for instructors would increase to $37,640.
--- approved the acknowledgement of the receipt of the Shenandoah Support Association Plus’ opening proposal, which entails a 75-cent per hour increase, and a total package increase of 4.4452%, or an additional cost of $91,854.75.