Let’s think about our veteran teachers. Many of these teachers have served to build our school district into a strong, high achieving county, sought out by families who value education. They have dedicated their adult lives to our students. Highly competent and effective, they know how to teach WITH or WITHOUT technology. They have seen many changes over the years and have embraced new creative ideas, adding them to tried and true teaching strategies from the past. Not surprised by change, they have learned to adapt to new curriculum mandates and methods of instruction. The knowledge, wisdom, and expertise they possess cannot be calculated.
I am embarrassed that we are offering them all a $3000 incentive to retire. If someone wants to retire, they should. I would rather spend that money on a teacher who will continue to serve our students next year. It could be used for professional development, to fund resources, or as a bonus to our high achieving teachers to encourage them to stay. Why give money that encourages people not to work? We should pay people who work.
My great aunt Kathyrn Mitchell comes to mind. She was the first female teaching principal in the state of Pennsylvania. She taught for 46 years, and lived to the age of 107. What was her secret to longevity? Besides having great genes and healthy living, she was productive- contributing to the lives of others as long as possible. (http://jimfanning.jimdo.com/snapshots/kathryn-mitchell/ )
Then I look at what we are suggesting- that a teacher with 25 years of experience should be encouraged to retire with $3000. I will complete my 25th year of teaching this May. At the age of 44, this could be me, but it is not. I continue to discover the secrets of great teachers and I look forward to many more years of service. In fact, it seems as if I am just getting started, especially with a whole new world of education that includes advances in technology and computerized teaching resources.
What if my great Aunt Kathryn Mitchell retired at 44? She would have collected teacher retirement for 63 years. Where are we going as a nation when our public institutions are encouraging people to retire while they are still productive? I have heard that for every teacher that retires, the school system will avoid paying $10,000 in unemployment. So, with the $3000 incentive, the anticipated savings is $7000. Are we really saving money or will this cost us more in the long run if all the sources of government funds and payouts are included?
High performing countries show respect for their teachers. If our community, our families and our students maintain an attitude of respect for our teachers, there is no reason they should not be encouraged to continue to serve as long as they are able to do so. It is when our students begin to show disrespect for our schools, teachers, and administrators that thoughts of retirement increase. It is when unrealistic goals and ineffective testing requirements are implemented that teachers start to think about retirement. It is when political agendas take priority over student learning that retirement options become attractive.
As a school board member, I am committed to encouraging a community of respect where teaching is valued and it is a joy to work with all our county’s students. In doing so, I hope our best teachers will continue to use and share the knowledge they have gained over the years to motivate and challenge our students to do their very best and make us all proud.