The Eden School Board opted to move forward with an early-retirement incentive package to qualified teachers by a 6-1 vote Wednesday.
Eden Superintendent Sandra Anzalone said this is the first time the district may offer this incentive, which is aimed at reducing costs in a district that is facing declining enrollment. According to Anzalone, the next step will be for the Eden Teachers Association to approve the incentive, which would be open for teachers who are at least 55 years old and receive full benefits from the district.
The decision came despite an impassioned plea from School Board member Barbara Henry not to pass the resolution because she believes it is “morally wrong.”
After it passed, Henry made a plea to any teacher who would take the deal.
“I challenge any teacher who accepts that to give it back to the community,” Henry said, noting there are a number of organizations they could donate money to.
Board member Colin Campbell asked Anzalone if this would be a one-time incentive, or if this is something that would be offered to teachers who qualify from now on.
Anzalone responded that this is a one-time offer and that she does not anticipate it being offered again “for a while.”
“It’s been a struggle the past couple of years with the diminishing funds coming into the school district” from state aid, Anzalone said.
Thomas Murphy, the district’s director of finance, said replacing teachers who retire with younger teachers would lead to a savings in a number of costs, including health care.
Board member Patricia Krouse questioned whether eligible teachers would be pressured to take the incentive. She was assured by Anzalone that this is not the case.
“It’s a choice. It’s a monetary choice they make,” Krouse said.
“We value teachers that have taught for many years,” Anzalone said.
According to the superintendent, if the teachers union passes the retirement incentive to the teachers, those who opt to take advantage will have 45 days from the time of the vote by the teachers union to inform the district they intend to take the deal.
Campbell told Anzalone that he would vote in favor this time, but in the future he would vote against it.
In other board news, Anzalone told the board she was concerned that the district has already used the five snow days with just over two months remaining in the winter; the board approved her request to alter the calendar and make Feb. 14 and March 21 half days of instruction.
Those days were originally scheduled to be full days off, and Anzalone said she picked those days because they were already full staff days.