The Oregon City Schools District has cut costs in the last few years as a result of the retire/rehire program of teachers and administrators.
The program allows retiring personnel to collect their pensions and be rehired at a reduced salary to their former positions.
“We’ve done it for a number of teachers, and some of our counselors,” said Eric Heintschel, school board president. “The teachers retire, and they do get their full retirement benefits, and we do rehire them back into the district, but because they get their full retirement, we can hire them back at a significantly reduced salary than what we were paying them the year before. So the benefit of the school district is that we get experienced staff who knows the district at a significantly reduced salary from the year before when they were still in the teaching ranks. It is a benefit to them because they get their retirement, the amount that is determined how many years they had teaching, and they get their regular salary. But it does help the district.”
The district’s five year forecast projects a $3 million spending deficit for fiscal year 2012. In the last three years, the board has cut $10 million from the general fund.
The retire/rehire program, of which many school districts across the state have taken advantage, has been controversial. Some opponents of the program call it “double dipping,” for those who participate in the program, while others say it prevents employment and promotions of younger teachers.
Heintschel acknowledges the program’s drawbacks, but said the district benefits by rehiring teachers with vast experience and skills at cheaper salaries at a time when districts are looking for ways to cut spending.
“There’s definitely value to the district. Yeah, the teacher does double dip by getting a retirement pension and a salary, but it helps the district save money, too. We could have a teacher go from a $80,000 annual salary to a $45,000 annual salary, saving the district $35,000. So we get a highly qualified, experienced teacher as opposed to bringing in someone fresh out of college at the same salary, but without the experience of the teacher we rehired,” he said.
Heintschel said school officials usually ask certain personnel before they retire about their interest in the program.
“We usually approach them before they announce their retirement. Or if they announce their retirement and we look at different options to fill the positions, we analyze them on an individual basis,” he said.
The program became effective in 2008. Those who participate are rehired for a two year period. The first group of school personnel to participate in the retire/rehire program in August, 2008, included Lois Bing, language arts instructor at Eisenhower Middle School, Mary Joy Burkle, culinary arts instructor at Clay High School, Doug Dippman, counselor, Clay High School, David Habegger, counselor, Clay High School, and Frank Polesovsky, health education instructor, Clay High School.
The board has approved personnel in the program each year since then, most recently at a special meeting a few weeks ago. The board holds a public hearing at the meetings before individuals are approved.
“If we want to move onto the next level and hire younger teachers and bring them in at the early steps on the scale, that’s another option, too. That maybe makes sense as well,” said Heintschel. “But we’ve always tried to balance the budget versus quality of education for the kids, and that’s where we try to find a happy medium.”