Potential new teacher retirement policy extends years of service

Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks via Flickr, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — Change is on the horizon in the Iron County School District, and although the changes are few, some of them will have long-term impact on educators.

In a regularly scheduled Iron County School District board meeting Tuesday, newly elected school board President Stephen Allen said that in response to concerns about losing valuable teachers who provide quality education to Utah students, the Utah Retirement Systems, an agency serving Utah public employees with retirement and insurance benefits, has asked districts statewide to change a portion of the Early Retirement Incentive Policy.

Allen said:

(There are times) when financially it makes sense to give incentives for educators to retire early, because a new teacher is typically less expensive than a teacher that’s been in the field for 30 years; but right now we’re in a teacher shortage so we cringe whenever teachers retire, because we think, ‘Oh wow, are we going to be able to replace the teacher with another quality teacher.’

As a result, Allen said, there has been a push to do away with early retirement incentives altogether by legislators. Instead of doing away with the option entirely, Allen said the Utah Retirement Systems has asked districts to increase the number of years required in the field to retire.

Previously, depending on when a teacher was hired, the years of service required to retire would either be 25 or 30 years.

The directive from the Utah Retirement Systems is recommending an increase of five years — meaning, anyone hired before July 1, 2010, would be allowed to take an early retirement after 30 years of service. Those hired after that date would be required to provide 35 years in Utah classrooms.

The change was slated for a vote on Tuesday but when the agenda item was brought up for discussion, Iron County School District Business Administrator Kent Peterson suggested to the board that it could be beneficial to consider revising the Iron County specific portion of the policy as well.

While early retirement procedures will now require teachers to have worked 30 to 35 years in the state of Utah, according to the Iron County School District Policy Handbook there is an additional clause that currently requires 15 of those years to have been in an Iron County classroom. Peterson asked board members and directors to consider increasing that 15 year requirement to 20 years.

The rationale he shared behind the request weighed the difference between educators who spend the majority or entirety of their careers teaching Iron County students, and those who come into the region and spend only 15 years of their career investing in the community before applying for retirement.

Some board members were concerned that the local increase would be detrimental to teachers already employed within the district. It was also pointed out that modern culture is much more transient than it once was and 20 years may not be realistic.

The variety of perspectives presented about the issue prompted the board to vote to move any final policy change to the March agenda.

In other news:

  • Board officers were appointed for a two year term by the Iron County School Board in Tuesday’s meeting. Michelle Jorgenson stepped down as board president this year making room for newly elected board president Stephen Allen to take the reigns. Board vice president Harold Haynie was reappointed to the same position.
  • Three Youth in Custody Mentors, Melanie Coon, Jodi Simmons and Lamar Jordan, were recognized by Iron County Alternative Programs Principal Steve Schofield at Tuesday night’s meeting.
  • Schofield also presented a report to directors and board members on the progress at Southwest Education Academy. Rather than give basic statistics and data to the board and directors, three students, Katie Haag, Johnny Denman and Austin Bennett each shared their experiences of both personal and scholarly growth since they became students in the alternative education program.
    “At the end of my sophomore year (at Cedar High School) I didn’t feel like I had no chance of graduating, I felt like I had no future and I wasn’t going to get anywhere,” Bennett said. “Now, I’m going to go to culinary school and get somewhere and that feeling is beyond amazing.”

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Rainbow Dash February 25, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Does anyone really believe that in 5 years the situation is going to be any different? I have a better idea. Why don’t you actually pay your teachers something close to a DECENT SALARY/BENEFITS? Think about it, offering teachers a DECENT SALARY/BENEFITS would help you attract new and good teachers, keep the teachers you have, bring people into the profession so those who want to retire while they still are still young enough to enjoy it can do so. Lewis Black had this to say on the subject. Good teachers inspire their kids to ask questions, get creative, think intelligently, independently and critically. They work 10 -12 hours per day and are responsible for educating our children. You want to attract teachers? GREAT! PAY THEM!

    Then again, I’m willing to bet that doing what Ive suggested might tick off your Bishop because, lets face it, when given the choice between educating our children and money, the Mormons will choose money.

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