To the Editor:
The Newtown public schools are facing an unprecedented certified staff reduction this year. I understand that the district is facing declining enrollment and that these “RIF notices” are necessary, but I would expect the Newtown Board of Education to make this situation as painless as possible for our teachers. A few months ago a retirement incentive package was presented as some other local communities are doing. I have perused the minutes from the past several BOE meetings, but could not find any mention of when the retirement package was discussed publicly.
I have a letter from Dr. Reed stating why the package was rejected. It states these reasons:
A. The Board of Education has already used a projected savings of $325,000 from turnover in its adopted budget for 2014-2015.
B. The position of one of the retirees has already been removed from the budget. There are no savings to be claimed from that position.
C. In reviewing staff data, the board did reflect on how very few teachers in our district will be qualified for the maximum state pension benefit next year. (Actually 90 district teachers are eligible for retirement, five times the number of teachers being let go)
D. The medical cost currently for new hires is exceeding the cost of many teachers who could retire because of an incentive which deflates cost savings.
E. There is awareness that declining enrollment will be a challenge the district will be facing for the foreseeable future and the projected inability to meet expectations of other teachers who will be retiring in the next several years by offering similar retirement incentives.
What I find disturbing about these reasons is that every single one is about money. None state how a retirement package could save some of our younger teachers who might have a long successful career ahead of them – teachers with young families, some Newtown families. These are teachers who have been with Newtown through it all, and have helped to make progress to where we are now. The reasons above don’t mention how a retirement package could be Newtown’s way of saying “thank you” to our veteran teachers for their years of service to our youth and their dedication to our community.
This is Newtown where we have “BE KIND” stickers on our cars and have a character tree with branches that say “citizenship,” “respect” and “caring.” This is the legacy I hope we want to leave to our children and I urge you to be part of it by contacting the superintendent and BOE and asking them to reconsider the retirement package. Also ask for a copy of the RIF list to see the teachers we are losing. None of these reasons state that the district wouldn’t save money by offering an incentive, in fact if enough people take it it should do the opposite for a number of years to come. Even if we don't save a ton of money, we are saving people, which to me is more important than money.
19 Tamarack Road, Newtown April 11, 2014