Incentive to leave: retirement packages offered to experienced teachers


Kara Green

Social studies teacher Mark Schillerstrom teaches students in the hall. Schillerstrom is one of 16 teachers throughout the district who are retiring at the end of the school year.

Duncan Christakos, Staff Writer

Students throughout the district are learning that many of their teachers – 16 in total – are retiring at the end of the school year. Two of those who are retiring are from the high school – Spanish teacher Nora Olguín and social studies teacher Mark Schillerstrom.

The teachers who chose to retire are doing so because they accepted a retirement package offered by the district. The package included paying teachers $100 for every unused sick day – capped at 135 – and a one-time payment equal to half of the average of a teacher’s past three years’ salaries.

“I was planning to be done either this year or next year, so the retirement package kind of came at the perfect time,” ELP director Kathy Paul said. Paul coordinated the ELP program in the district from the middle school. She is one of the sixteen teachers who accepted early retirement – though there is nothing ‘early’ about it for Paul. “I have been at Johnston for 34 years, back when it was just one elementary school that went from Kindergarten to sixth grade. I want to spend more time with my family, and have been phasing out of full-time teaching for several years now. I am going to keep working at Drake, where I am continuing ELP work.”

Schillerstrom has similar sentiments to Paul. “I have been teaching for 42 years,” Schillerstrom said. “I was going to retire at the end of this year.”

Nothing feels different for Schillerstrom yet. He acknowledges that the end of the year will still feel mostly the same. “I expect it to be surreal in August,” Schillerstrom said. “Right now, I have gotten used to the idea of retiring.”

The retirement package’s purpose is to save the school money on teachers’ salaries. Teachers nearing retirement age have a significantly higher salary than teachers with little experience. Therefore, the school will save a substantial sum of money by hiring less experienced teachers. That money can be spent where the school needs it, including covering the rather large sums of money given to the retiring teachers up front.

Superintendent Laura Kacer and the Chief Financial Officer Jan Miller Hook made the decision to offer the package after reviewing the budget and determining that it was necessary to reduce spending. The decision went before the school board, and was approved unanimously. The early retirement incentive was only offered to 20 teachers in total, and was not offered to administrators, custodial staff, or lunch staff. Counselors were considered eligible for the package.