Bibb dismissing retired teachers

More than a dozen Bibb County schoolteachers will lose their jobs at the end of the school term to help save the school system money.

Fifteen full-time teachers, who came out of retirement to help alleviate the state’s teacher shortage and work in Bibb schools, were informed by letter last month that they will be dismissed in May.

“The point is we make more money,” said Kay DeFore, 57, who had retired as a media specialist after 36 years but went back to work at Bruce Elementary in 2003 to fill a void. “This happens in the corporate world all the time, but this is the first time in my lifetime it happened to us.”

Because of the state’s teaching shortage, the state allows retired teachers to return to work full time in the classroom or in certain positions. It requires school systems to pay an employer contribution — about 9 percent of a teacher’s salary per year — toward the teachers’ retirement, which is normal.

But another stipulation in the agreement requires the school system to pay an additional 5 percent contribution per teacher that teachers would typically pay.

For Bibb County, that extra 5 percent cost for the 15 teachers totals about $46,000, said Dan Ray, Bibb County school system’s assistant superintendent of human resources.

“It’s not a negative aimed at our retirees,” Ray said. “We had to look and see where money could be reduced, as we still don’t know the full ramifications of the (state) cuts that will be coming.”

The school system said it would employ retired teachers on just a part-time basis this fall to avoid paying extra retirement contributions to the state. Bibb has about 24,500 students and employs about 1,750 certified teachers.

Central office administrators decided in October not to hire any full-time retirees next school year because of the added costs, Ray said.

“Other districts are furloughing people,” he said. “Our goal is to hold on to as many people as we can.”

Other departments within the Bibb school system have also made cuts after the state cut more than $2.5 million from Bibb’s budget this past fall.

The athletics department cut middle school basketball and wrestling preseason games as well as some varsity travel. The transportation department cut bus routes, and energy use in schools is being curtailed, amounting to savings of more than $100,000.

Some teachers worry, though, that cutting the experienced teachers, who work mostly in low-income schools, will hurt students.

Often, inner-city schools have the highest number of new teachers or those coming from alternative pathways to teach, said Myrtice Johnson, a former principal at Weir and Hamilton elementary schools and now president of Bibb’s Retired Educators Association.

“It brings hardship to have all new teachers. They don’t have the skills, the teaching strategies or discipline,” she said. “When they walk out of college, the principal has to do the bulk of the work to get them ready.

“You want to retain experienced teachers, so if (retired teachers) are willing to stay, we ought to keep them there.”

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.