New school years bring new faces and often bid farewell to familiar ones.
Five longtime faculty retired this June from Milton School District after taking a career change incentive offered to those who had taught for at least 18 years as of June 30. Six positions were offered.
Often referred to as a buyout, the incentive offers faculty a financial stipend after their retirement. A similar offer was given in April 2011, and nine teachers took the option.
Faculty accepting this year’s offer included:
• John Eckerson, high school social studies;
• George Lareau, high school guidance counselor;
• Marie Froeschl, physical education;
• Julie Talley, Grade 3-4 teacher, and
• Janet Lynch, Grade 2 teacher.
The staff accepted payment deals ranging between about $25,900 and $42,600 to be paid out in increments over three years, according to district figures.
The whole buyout will cost nearly $214,900, including payroll tax. The idea is that the teachers’ replacements will cost less than that over the next three years.
Superintendent John Barone agreed that by losing veteran teachers, quality is compromised in saving money. While retiring teachers have years of experience, new teachers have other qualities to offer.
“Bringing in someone new brings new ideas, fresh ideas, enthusiasm,” Barone said.
The outgoing teachers forged personal relationships with parents and students, Barone said.
“John Eckerson, for example, is a very beloved teacher,” Barone said. “[School Board Vice-Chairwoman] Mary Knight, whose daughters had both been in one of John’s classes … was right on camera, and she actually got a little emotional when she, a board member, was actually speaking more as a parent.”
Barone acknowledged the sadness of losing familiar faces but also pointed out the bright side of the situation: “People are happy for them, because they’re going to be able to move on and do something new in their lives,” he said.
Eckerson is happy with retired life.
“After 26 years, I’m ready for a change in pace,” said Eckerson, adding he has more free time and a flexible schedule.
George Lareau, a guidance counselor who accepted the offer, is excited to devote more time to a long list of hobbies including hiking, kayaking and painting, but also conceded if he got bored, he may get back into the working world.
Due to budget restrictions, the district cut eight teachers this school year. Thanks to the buyout and regular attrition, everyone was recalled. All but one returned – Kindergarten teacher Andrew Emrich had already accepted another position when the recall notices went out, Barone said.
The superintendent said outgoing teachers may have been motivated to take the buyout to prevent other teachers from losing their jobs. Though no teacher said this, Barone knows the faculty makes personal connections that impact their decisions.
Despite the budget situation, no one was forced out of a job, Barone said.
“Let’s be honest: [Saving money] is a motivation in an area of tight budgets, but that was not the sole reason nor was it the main reason to offer these,” Barone said, adding he wants to make sure teachers retire with dignity.
Terry Mazza, human resources, clarified that buyouts are products of union negotiations. In the past, the union asked for one, she said.
“So sometimes it’s not always just budgetary reasons; sometimes it’s because people are ready and just want to know would something be offered,” Mazza explained.
There are fiscal benefits, however: The district saves funds by hiring a less experienced teacher.
When replacing teachers as seasoned as Eckerson and Lareau – who were employed by the district for 26 and 42 years, respectively – new hires take home slightly more than half of their predecessors’ wages, Mazza said.
The district also saves on employees’ health care: Most new faculty are younger and don’t yet require family plans or much medical attention.
Barone can relate: When he first starting teaching, he replaced a 40-year teacher.
“The district saved money. I knew that, but I got a job,” he said.
The actual amount Milton will save this year has yet to be determined. Barone said money was saved by hiring staff with different or additional certifications and by eliminating Froeschl’s position altogether.
“I’m very happy with the new hires that we have as a district. We have some very enthusiastic individuals, and I think that certainly is going to be a benefit for us,” Barone said. “Will there be a savings? I certainly hope so.”
Eckerson said the buyout’s timing impacted his decision to leave this year.
“It was very difficult to turn down, especially because I knew that this offer would not come again for another five years,” he said.
Barone confirmed that prediction, saying he doesn’t expect another buyout in the near future.
“It’s certainly something I haven’t discussed with the board yet, but it is a conversation I think we will have,” he said.