More than 50 teachers will retire in Districts 97 and 200 next summer, a final wave of departures under a state sponsored early retirement program that is ending in 2010.

The District 97 elementary schools will lose 41 veteran teachers, with three schools seeing the departure of six or seven faculty members. At District 200 Oak Park and River Forest High School, 12 faculty members will retire.

Under the state’s early retirement incentive program, local districts bumped the salaries of retiring teachers over the final two or three years of service by a total of 20 percent. The impact of that hike increases the annual pension paid by the state’s teacher retirement system to departing teachers. Teachers had to announce their intention to retire by March 2007 to take advantage of the increases.

Both school districts project substantial savings going forward as new teachers are hired at lower salary scales than the veteran teachers they will replace. At District 200, Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Witham says that, on average, the dozen retiring teachers will earn $112,000 in their final year. Their replacements, on average, will earn $64,000, she said. “It is absolutely a savings,” said Witham.

She said the district has also negotiated tighter retirement terms in recent contracts that will have teachers leaving closer to age 60 than age 55 and that retiree health benefits will shift to the state at an earlier age. “We will feel the huge impact of those changes,” she said.

Dist. 97 is also calculating a savings with next year’s retirements, said Therese O’Neill, assistant superintendent for finance and operations. She’s estimating around $1.5 million in savings and said the district expects to hire new teachers at lower salaries for the 2010-2011 school year. The $1.5 millions is a projected number, which could go higher, O’Neill said. The district remains in deficit spending, she noted, but will get a little relief next year.

“It’s less of a pull on the district’s resources,” O’Neill said.

Percy Julian Middle School has the most retiring teachers with eight. At the elementary schools, Lincoln and Mann are next in line with six teachers each. Beye is the only school without a retiring teacher. Two instructors who work out of the central office are also retiring.

Supt. Constance Collins said the 41 teachers retiring next year is not the largest number ever, recalling that more than 50 teachers retired in a single year during her tenure. Collins has been superintendent since 2005.

“Theses folks decided two years ago that they would retire to take advantage of these benefits,” she said.

Along with the 12 faculty at OPRF, five administrators are retiring but they’re not affected by the state’s Teacher Retirement System.

Dist. 97 faculty are currently working under a five-year contract, its first ever of that length. Teachers received a nearly 5-percent increase the first year, a 3.1-percent increase in year two, and a 2.5- to 4-percent increase the last three years, depending on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Dist. 200’s current 5-year agreement, signed in 2007, provides a 4-percent increase in each year, and 2.5 percent in step raises.

Retirements at D97

Beye – 0
Hatch – 4
Holmes – 4
Irving – 2
Lincoln – 6
Longfellow – 4
Mann – 6
Whittier – 3
Brooks – 2
Julian – 8
Central office (special eduction) – 2

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