The Juneau School District is examining whether to use a new state law that allows it to re-hire retired staff.
A bill passed this year by the state Legislature revised retirement benefit rules for retired teachers, allowing them to sign a waiver to take an education job while maintaining their retirement benefits.
Under the bill, districts would not have to deduct or make retirement contributions for the employees, and the employees would not accrue additional credit for benefits with their new job.
Sponsors of the bill in the House and Senate cited a statewide teacher shortage as a reason to give districts the option of hiring retired educators. The legislation, which took effect in July of this year, expires in June 2005.
In order to participate, districts must adopt a resolution indicating there is a staff shortage or that they anticipate one. District administrators last week asked the Juneau School Board to consider approving such a declaration, but no vote was taken.
District Human Resources Director Patti Carlson said the district is not facing an immediate need to re-hire retirees, but is seeking to have the policy in place should the need arise.
"The beauty of it is to have the option available," she said. "We may exercise it or we may not. ... It's just nice to have."
Initially, the policy would cover only positions not covered by bargaining agreements - mostly district administrators. The district still needs to talk with employee unions to work out details such as where re-hired retirees would fall on the pay schedule.
Some board members, however, expressed concern that the district might rely on retirees rather than actively seek new staff.
"I think institutions have an obligation to bring in new blood," School Board Vice President Chuck Cohen said at last week's meeting. Otherwise, "it can't continue to define itself with young and new ideas."
Cohen said he has not decided whether to support adopting the policy, and said he would like to hear from all of the district's bargaining units before taking a position.
"It's not like we have to do it (now)," he said. "Since there is no urgency, it seems to be something we can reflect on a little bit."
Clay Good, president of the Juneau Education Association, the teachers union, said the practice has the potential to be a "win-win-win" situation for the district, retired teachers and students, if there is a vacancy that cannot be filled and a proven, high-quality retired teacher available.
However, he said the district still must address any concerns of bargaining units, and examine if its recruitment efforts need improvement.
"We're excited about opportunities to bring back quality retired teachers (but) we are concerned about the recruitment effort of the district and how hard they are trying to get new hires for these positions."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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