McCook Public Schools' board of education Monday evening approved a one-time program to pay financial incentives to long-time teachers and administrators wanting to leave the school system, a program reacting to an anticipated reduction in state aid.
Thirty MPS certificated staff members are eligible to participate in the "Temporary Separation Incentive Policy" program that has the potential of ultimately reducing salaries and benefits paid by the school.
School Superintendent Grant Norgaard told board members and members of the teaching staff and public in the audience, "This is in reaction to a(n anticipated) shortfall in receipts ... an effort to stay fiscally solvent and pay our bills."
Board president Tom Bredvick said the board is looking at the possible loss of half-a-million dollars in state aid. "This model saves money," he said, "replacing a tenured staff member nearing retirement with ... (he struggled for the right word, apologizing for it) ... I'm sorry, I'm an accountant, replacing a tenured staff member with -- this isn't a nice way to say it -- a lower-costing unit."
The one-time TSIP program is offered to MPS certificated staff members and administrators who are at least 55 years of age on or before Aug. 15, 2010, with at least six years of continuous service to the school district. An eligible employee must apply between Feb. 15 and Feb. 19, and has seven days to withdraw an application.
Benefits will be calculated using this formula:
1. $1,200 times the FTE (full-time equivalent) years of service with MPS, plus,
2. $20 times the accumulated six leave days at the end of the 2009-10 school year, plus,
3. $4,000 if the employee has 6-10 years FTE years of service.
$6,000 if the employee has 11-15 FTE years of service.
$8,000 if the employee has 16-20 FTE years of service.
$10,000 if the employee has 21 or more FTE years of service.
4. Benefits under this program will be paid to the participating employee on or before Jan. 20, 2011.
(According to the MPS salary schedule, based on 185 days, the beginning salary of a certificated teacher with a bachelor of arts degree and no additional hours is $30,043.)
An employee choosing to participate in the TSIP cannot also participate in the retirement incentive plan portion of the McCook Public Schools Teacher Negotiations Agreement effective for the 2009-10 contract year that sunsets in 2012.
This one-year early separation program may entice a number of eligible employees to retire now, rather than having all 30 retire and participate in the negotiated agreement's retirement incentive program in 2012, Bredvick said.
School finance director Rick Haney said the decision to participate in the program is entirely up to eligible employees. "There will be no recruiting, no coercion, no approaching anyone," he said.
Bredvick said the school district has set aside about $400,000 in an early retirement program budget fund for three years. Approval of applications will be made in March. If there are more applicants that what the budget will support, administrators will use date of application and salary to determine who will be allowed to participate.
Eligible employees who are approved for participation in the TSIP shall resign their positions at the end of the 2009-10 school year this spring. The program includes a provision that requires a portion of the settlement payment be repaid if the employee is rehired within five years; this provision does not apply to substitute teaching, however.
Board member Maury Green assured fellow board members that he intended to vote for the program: "In a business sense, it makes sense." Yet, he said, "Something is flawed when we have to buy out teachers. It's a shame to resort to something like this to balance our budget."
Green continued, "I can't let this pass without mentioning, too, that these are human beings ... valued teachers ... much more than 'units'."
"There is something fundamentally wrong to have to do this," Green said.
The vote to approve the TSIP was unanimous.
Tom Bredvick was elected to his second year as board president. Bredvick's nomination, by Diane Lyons, was the only nomination for the president's position.
Lyons nominated Shane Messersmith and Scott Johnson nominated Larry Shields for vice president. Shields won in a secret ballot, 4-2.
Messersmith nominated Lyons for secretary, and there were no other nominations.
The board reappointed finance director Rick Haney as treasurer and recording secretary.
Bredvick will review committee appointments and announce them at the February meeting.
In other action:
* Norgaard announced that the deadline for school board incumbents to register for reelection is Feb. 16. Incumbents are Johnson, Shields and Messersmith.
The deadline for non-incumbents to file is March 1.
Norgaard reminded board members of a board workshop Wednesday, Jan. 27 in North Platte and of the auction of former District 8 school buildings on Friday, Jan. 29 and their contents on Saturday, Jan. 30. He said an open house of the school property is today, from 4 p.m until 6 p.m.
Proceeds from the sale may be used to purchase updated reading curriculum, Norgaard said.
* The board unanimously approved the yearly "Option Enrollment Capacity Resolution," detailing program capacity, projected enrollment and number of option students for each grade K-12.
* Bev Anderson, food service manager for Sodexo, introduced her staff members and visiting Sodexo officials: Cindy Moody, McCook, all kitchen supervisor; Cristina Bueno, junior-senior high head cook; Linda Babcock, McCook Elementary and Central Elementary head cook; Larry Young, General Manager, North Platte; Adrienne Kinlaw, General Manager, Cedar Hills, Texas; Bill Pickering, General Manager, Weld County, Colo., and Laramie, Wyo.; and Ken Holdman, District Manager School Services, Oklahoma.
* The board recognized the McCook Education Association as the sole representative of certificated staff employed by MPS/District 17. Bredvick said the MEA and board members will soon begin bargaining in good faith for the 2010-11 school year contracts.
During "Positive Comments," board members and administrators said:
* Haney: Said he appreciated Lyons taking minutes at board meetings that he has missed.
* Lyons: Said she was impressed with the extra time and effort of teachers, and said elementary teachers are reading "What Great Teachers Do Differently."
* Johnson: Said he enjoyed Christmas programs and the "Santa Shop" at McCook Elementary.
* Shields: Said he appreciated time spent on the temporary separation incentive program by Haney and Norgaard. "I hate to see this," Shields said. "It's nothing we want to do, but it's a financial necessity. It's not easily done."
* Green: Said the second semester appears to be off to a good start, thanks to the combined effort of staff, faculty and administrators.
* Messersmith: Said he appreciated the snow day the day before the Christmas holiday started, allowing his son to work an extra day on the farm.
* Bredvick: Said the school was not idle during the Christmas break, as he found teachers and staff members in the buildings. "It just shows they enjoy their jobs," he said.
* Norgaard: Said he enjoyed the band's and choir's Christmas programs, and was impressed by the soloists and by the commitment of teachers Sandy Weigel and Donita Priebe. "We have lots of talented kids," Norgaard said, and added, "And the pep band sounds great."
The board went into closed session to discuss its evaluation of Superintendent Norgaard.
Following closed session, board members approved moving the February meeting from the second Monday, Feb. 8, to the first Monday, Feb. 1.