Teacher retirements hold steadyPublished 6:04pm Thursday, May 31, 2012
Laura Vance is retiring after 21 years as the hospitality and food service teacher at Niles High School.
She’s not alone.
Seventeen teachers in the Niles Community Schools district have indicated they are retiring or resigning at the end of the school year, according to John Tanke, district human resources director.
Although numbers fluctuate from year to year, the district averaged about 16 retirements/resignations over the past five years. Tanke said there were 12 in 2012, 24 in 2010, seven in 2009, 21 in 2008 and 18 in 2007.
Vance said she wanted to teach two more years, but the retirement reform bill currently in the House of Representatives forced her to retire early. If passed in its current form, Senate Bill 1040 would result in cuts to employee pension benefits while increasing out-of-pocket costs for employees.
She is getting out before the bill affects her.
“I don’t want to be out that money in my lifetime,” Vance said.
Vance said a family health issue and the district’s unsettled teachers’ union contract also factored into her decision, although to a lesser degree. The teachers’ union and district have been negotiating for a new teachers contract unsuccessfully since January of 2011. Negotiations have been heated at times, with each side accusing the other of unfair labor practices.
Sheryl McKeel, a high school math teacher for 21 years, is also retiring, citing Senate Bill 1040 and the unsettled teachers’ union contract as main factors behind her decision.
McKeel originally planned on retiring when her youngest daughter, a freshman, graduated.
“The recent contract negotiations had a great effect in my unwillingness to continue working for Niles Community Schools,” McKeel said. “It is tough working for the current school board when you don’t feel appreciated and supported.”
High school graphic arts teacher Lewis Carrington is also retiring after 20 years in the district. Carrington said he planned on retiring this year regardless of the retirement reform bill and unsettled contract negotiations. However, those two things made his decision easier.
“It is a good time to leave the system,” said Carrington, who taught at Andrews University for 15 years before becoming a teacher at Niles.