Wednesday, April 14, 2004
The 2004-05 school year likely will be the last for some of the Steamboat Springs School District's most experienced and recognizable employees, including two principals.
Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal John DeVincentis said he won't return to the district after next school year.
"It's time to go," DeVincentis said. "In 35 years, I haven't had a year when I haven't had to go to work in the fall."
DeVincentis, in his 20th year at Strawberry Park, announced his intention to retire at the end of the current school year in a letter to the School Board dated March 15. His subsequent request to work the 2004-05 school year under a post-retirement agreement was approved by the School Board at its meeting Monday.
DeVincentis, who has feuded in recent years with the School Board and a former superintendent, said the decision to start a Montessori program at his school had no influence on his decision to retire. His school has been rated "excellent" by the state in the past two School Accountability Reports.
Steamboat Springs High School Principal Dave Schmid, in his ninth year at the high school, has been employed under a post-retirement agreement for the past three years. His request to continue working under such an agreement also was approved by the School Board this week.
Schmid was named the 2002 Colorado High School Principal of the Year, and his school was rated "excellent" by the state in last year's School Accountability Reports. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
At least 10 additional district employees will work under post-retirement agreements for the 2004-05 school year, including Barbara Youngs, Bob Hiester, Ilene Stevenson, Betsy Zimmerman, Chris Decker, Shirley Belz, Jeanne Lodwick, Georgianne Merritt, Anita Harding and Denise Connelly. Zimmerman, Decker, Belz, DeVincentis, Lodwick, Harding and Connelly each have worked at least two decades for the district.
A new School Board policy intended to stop the use of post-retirement agreements will mean employees won't have the option of returning after the 2004-05 school year.
The School Board on Monday approved a post-retirement employment request policy stating the district won't use such agreements beginning with the 2005-06 school year unless there is a "critical shortage of quality employees in a specific area."
The policy's language is under scrutiny by the School Board to ensure it meets the intention of restricting all employees from using post-retirement agreements except in unusual circumstances.
The decision to end the practice of hiring technically retired employees to work under post-retirement agreements comes amid a push by the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association, or PERA, to revise a state statute under which employers who rehire retired employees don't have to pay their contribution to the worker's retirement fund.
PERA says rampant use of post-retirement contracts -- often referred to as 110-day contracts because they allow retired employees to return to work for up to 110 days per calendar year before their benefits suffer -- is costing the system about $10 million a year.
If PERA's proposal is accepted and passed by state lawmakers, employers will be forced to pay their contribution to an employee's retirement benefits, thereby eliminating one of the primary benefits for districts to use post-retirement contracts.
The Steamboat Springs School District saves about $30,000 a year by not having to pay its contributions to the retirement packages of seven employees working under post-retirement agreements.
Post-retirement agreements are beneficial to employees because they can return to work at their regular salaries while also collecting their retirement benefits.
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