Columbia County School Superintendent Tommy Price introduced a proposal to board members this week that would provide incentives to teacher retirees returning to work in the classroom.
The move was prompted by the board's desire to keep 22-year veteran Lakeside High School English Teacher and Debate Coach Charles Heywood and others like him.
"We wanted to make this a better picture for them," Price said. "This is not going to have any budgetary impact. Right now we are telling them they have nothing. What we are proposing now is that we pretty much treat them like a standard employee."
Under rules of the state teacher retirement system, educators who retire, but who want to continue to teach, may receive their full retirement benefits as long as they teach less than half (49 percent or less) of a full-time schedule.
But that has meant no job benefits and very little job security, as principals try to work half-time teachers into their schedule.
"We don't need to penalize these people who are proven commodities to our system," said Board Chairman Wayne Bridges. "These 49 percenters have the option of going to private schools to teach. We ought to do anything we can to keep them."
Price said the system currently has about five of these retired teachers in the system and expects to have about 10 next year.
To be eligible for retirement benefits, a teacher must teach for 30 years, or be age 60 with at least 10 years of service.
State legislators this session passed a measure which would allow school districts to hire retired teachers to fill full-time jobs, but only in low-performing schools.
Price's proposed benefits package - which the board is expected to tentatively approve Tuesday night - would provide sick leave (half of what a full-time teacher gets) and eligibility for all other benefits except short- and long- term disability. They would also not be eligible for merit health insurance and no retirement would be withheld.
As an incentive to participate, the system would offer a bonus at the end of their annual contract equalling 5 percent of their annual salary for that contract year.
There are stipulations.
The retired employee cannot work more than 19 hours per week, there must be a one-month break in service and the retirement system must give its approval each year or the school district would be responsible for paying back the retirement system.
"I think its important that we support these valued employees," said Board Member Regina Buccaffusco. "They're not just workers, they have given their lives to us for many years. To give them the benefits they deserve working part time is the best thing we can do."
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