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39 school employees retire, save district $4-$4.5M

June 16, 2010 - All good things must come to an end.

At the Monday, May 24 Board of Education meeting held at Oxford Middle School, the district honored 25 teachers and 14 employees of the district who filed for retirement this year.

For Daniel Axford Kindergarten teacher Pamela Collins, who has spent 34 of her 36 years teaching first graders at DA, the moment was bittersweet.

"I just always loved working with the little kids and it has been a great career and every day I loved coming to work. What more could you ask for," she said.

Collins, along with 24 other teachers, took the district's retirement incentive package, while one teacher resigned after taking advantage of a different plan said Deputy Superintendent Nancy Kammer.

According to Kammer, the district offered a severance package of $45,000 distributed equally over a five-year period. The package was offered to those who had more than 10 years of teaching experience and beyond step 10 on the pay scale.

"That is where the savings come in because the retiring teachers are at the top of the scale and we hire in teachers at the lower end of the scale," she said.

Kammer noted that the district originally estimated the number of teacher retirements at 12. However, the district had double the anticipated teacher retirement amount plus an additional 14 service employees retire.

The cost savings for the district from their retirement incentive package is going to save them a litte over $1 million in the first year.

The district will save between $4 million and $4.5 million over five years, according to Tim Loock, assistant superintendent of business and operations for the district.

Oxford Middle School Language Arts teacher Mark Ott, who had been with the district for 34 years, also took the severance package the district offered.

Ott also coached football and track for over 30 years at the middle school, and spent 15 years as the school's volleyball coach. Ott plans on busing himself with numerous plans after he closes out his career at OMS. "I am looking at this as I am embarking on a new career as opposed to retiring," he said. "I am way too hyper to sit around and just golf, I have to do something more than that."

Some of his future plans include teaching academic literacy at Oakland Community College, coaching Varsity Volleyball at Utica High School and possibly furthering his education at Wayne State University.

Ott noted he's going to look into how he can help teach in Detroit Public Schools.

The 14 service employees took the revised proposal from the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System.

The proposal created an incentive for state employees to retire by providing an increase in the pension multiplier from 1.5 percent to 1.6 percent for employees who are eligible to retire and leave between July 1, 2010 and Aug. 31, 2010.

In effect, this would provide a 6.7 percent increase in an employee's pension.

Kammer noted that the district would not see as much savings from the service providers because they are paid differently.

"Teachers start slow on a salary schedule, but as they work for the district over the years, their salary increases. Other staff members, they may have a slight increase, but they are usually hired in at the prevailing rate for those positions, so there isn't that big of a difference," Kammer explained.

"So, if we are replacing those employees, it is basically about the same level," she added.

Collins said that her plans for retirement include spending time with her family and friends. The thing that Collins took the most satisfaction from was being involved in her students reading progression. "Watching them start with not to many skills and then by the end of the year be wonderful readers was just a joy," she said.

Ott said that he will always remember the warmth of the Oxford community and the quality of the individuals that he worked with.

"There have been so many great times teaching here at the middle school," he said. "The middle schoolers are just a riot and they are forever doing things that are hilarious."

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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