The Shawnee Mission School District and the teachers union have agreed to an early retirement incentive plan that has the potential to affect more than 300 experienced educators by the end of the school year.
Superintendent Jim Hinson said decisions on early retirement are “totally voluntary” by teachers.
“It is entirely their option whether they want to take advantage of the incentive or not,” Hinson told Shawnee Mission School Board members during a Monday night meeting.
School board members unanimously approved the incentive plan.
The decision to fill vacancies created by retiring teachers will be made based on need, district spokeswoman Leigh Anne Neal said.
“Each year, the district gets together and looks at the projections and has meetings on staffing based on what the needs are districtwide,” she said. “I’m not aware, at this time, of any reductions.
“It’s too early in the year right now to be looking at that for next year,” Neal said. “But, certainly the district is keeping an eye on its demographics and will be looking at enrollment projections as we get closer to next year.”
Based on an average salary scenario, the district thinks it will save $18,000 per employee in year one, Neal said.
Teachers taking the early retirement incentive will receive 60 percent of their base salary in five equal payments from September 2015 to September 2019, according to the agreement. They would be ineligible for re-employment in Shawnee Mission in roles other than substitute teacher, the agreement states.
There are no projections on how many teachers might decide on early retirement, she said, though the district has averaged about 85 teacher retirements in each of the last two years.
“We know how many people are eligible, but we don’t know how many people are actually ready to make that decision,” Neal said.
The incentive plan developed from negotiations Nov. 11 and 12 between bargaining teams from the district and union.
NEA-Shawnee Mission initially expressed interest in exploring an early retirement incentive for educators, Neal said.
“Typically negotiations don’t occur until spring, but because this was a specific, single topic, they opened a negotiation,” she said.
“This provision provides a one-time opportunity for eligible staff members to begin their retirement early, while at the same time offers potential savings for the school district.”
Before the school board vote, Nancy Fritz, president of the National Education Association of Shawnee Mission Inc., told the school board that union members had “overwhelmingly” ratified the agreement.
To be eligible for the early retirement incentive, teachers must have 10 continuous years of service to the district and be eligible for retirement benefits under the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System. Teachers are required to sign an irrevocable retirement/resignation notice by Feb. 2.
Although the agreement is one-time only, it could be considered again in the future, Deputy Superintendent Robert DiPierro said.
“It was specifically stated in the agreement that this is not going to be part of any of the continuing language,” he said. “This is a one-time addendum to the contract that goes away at the end of this year. It could obviously be brought up again and renegotiated in future years, but it won’t be a continuing provision.”
DiPierro said the Feb. 2 deadline provides district administrators an “idea of how many teachers we need to replace and how the impact of the incentive worked.”
Neal said she didn’t have information on whether the negotiations earlier this month included a discussion about the potential effect on classroom instruction. However, the district annually replaces retiring teachers with the same goals in mind, she said.
“We’re always looking and keeping an eye on talent out there,” Neal said. “…That’s really important, that we have really highly-qualified teachers working with our students across the grades and across the needs in our district.”