05/30/12 — Retirees make decisions as schools seek new staff

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Retirees make decisions as schools seek new staff

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 30, 2012 1:46 PM

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Kya Benett-Schallert whispers her homework assignment to her teacher, Sherrie Cogdell, in their third-grade classroom at Meadow Lane Elementary School. Mrs. Cogdell lined up her students to have them each tell her a project they are working on and what their homework is, as "their ticket out the door." She will be retiring this year after 31 years in the classroom.

Wayne County Public Schools will have positions to fill next year, depending on the result of state budget talks, as more county teachers and staff decide this is the year they will retire.

The latest pool of educators who have announced retirement plans is about average, said Marvin McCoy, assistant superintendent for human resource services in Wayne County Public Schools.

"I normally go through what I call my March madness, but March madness has extended through May because some people are making up their minds a little later," McCoy said. "But with that, instead of July 1 only, we're having some Aug. 1 and September retirements either due to birthdays (or) whether or not they're 10- or 12-month employees."

The reasons might vary -- from military relocations or taking a job elsewhere to simply being at the appropriate retirement age. For others, the demands of the job simply catch up with them.

"I have had them come in and say, 'Mr. McCoy, I'm going to retire today,'" he said with a smile.

That's not typical, however, he added.

"The biggest (reason) this year is, 'Hey, I'm just ready' and health issues of parents, because now they have become the prime caregiver for their parents," McCoy said.

Some have a calculated plan for their departure. Others are in the planning stages and either begin investigating online or are directed to McCoy's office to begin the process. The usual notification time frame is 90 to 120 days.

"The economy could be attributed, but I have had more than (the usual number of) inquiries about retirement, as to where do I stand, when can I retire?" he said. "So that part, even though they aren't retiring, I have had a large number to inquire."

He estimated at this point needing to hire about 30 staff members for the coming school year. That includes teachers and certified support staff, or areas such as guidance counselors and media coordinators.

The critical areas continue to be in high school math and science, he said, as well as exceptional children teachers, formerly known as special education.

State cuts to budgets and allotments contribute to the problem, resulting in school districts having to juggle personnel to maintain programs.

Wayne County Public Schools has done remarkably well under the circumstances, McCoy said.

"I have teacher assistants who have graduated in December and May, and they have become classroom teachers to fill in some of the vacancies, so cuts that would have gone in the teacher cut arena are offset," he said. "My retirees that retired in January are playing a key role for my young mothers-to-be. We need someone to fill in for six to eight weeks or even a half-year because the parent wants to spend time with their babies."

McCoy said he feels the district is "stable" right now as far as preparing for the upcoming school year.

"I don't think that there will be too many more retirements," he said. "We're just trying to fine-tune specialty areas."

The district has finished its season of traveling to job fairs, culminating with its local version in April.

"We had 400 applicants to come through the (local) job fair. It was really great for us," McCoy said. "After the state budget is completed, then we'll know where we need to put the people."

Lacking a finalized state budget, it is a challenge to offer jobs and to sign contracts, he explained, but principals are able to express interest in the form of a letter of intent.

"It's the early bird that gets the worm," McCoy said. "With the military, I get a lot of emails up front, letters up front, 'I'm moving to the area, interested in this.'"

The largest area of teacher vacancies but the easiest one to fill, he noted, will be K-6.

"Once we get the allotment settled and the budget from the state is locked in, then in the July time frame but by the start of the school year, we try to submit things in," he said. "I'm very optimistic on our start for the new year that we'll have all of the necessary people in place."