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Retirements skyrocket across school district

Waukesha will lose almost 130 experienced teachers

May 31, 2011

Waukesha Superintendent Todd Gray knew retirements were going to be higher than usual throughout the school district.

"We expected between 80 to 100," Gray said.

But as the 2010-11 school year comes to a close next week, the number of retirements is even more than Gray anticipated.

According to the Waukesha School District Human Resource Department, 127 teachers will leave the district.

Gray said he wasn't surprised by the total though he didn't foresee this many.

The number is a dramatic increase from recent years, as Gray said the number of retirements is usually around 30-40.

One reason retirements are abnormally high is due to the School District's benefits being slashed and the unknowns on the horizon with the Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill and how it will affect public employees and collective bargaining.

This is how long-term Waukesha School District teachers Duane Stein and Chris Beck see things:

"If you don't take [the medical benefits] this year, you lose it," said Stein, who is stepping down after 37 combined years at Waukesha North and Waukesha West. "I would like to come back, but the nature of the district and the state government is going in a different direction.

"For many, it's in their best interest to step down."

This is also the case for Beck, who has taught at all three of the district's high schools (South, North and West) for 39 years.

Beck said she would have stayed a couple more years if not for the district's cutbacks and what Walker has proposed in Madison.

"It was time to go," Beck said. "[Administrators] wanted us to go. No one approached us to stay. On some levels, maybe they thought it was for different reasons, but many had the same reason."

In addition to teachers, 20 administrators and support staff members will retire.

Gray said the district will replace most of the positions, though it is possible they might not replace all the positions if they can do without them.

Moreover, the School Board has approved the layoffs of 39 part-time employees and two full-time staff members, who have unique licensures. However, Gray said there is a good chance those employees could return for the 2011-12 school year.Gray said it will be a busy summer trying to find replacements for the retirees. He expects a majority of the applicants to be recent college graduates or teachers with less experience.

Gray said this will help the district's budget because their salaries will be lower than the more experienced workers who are retiring. "The district will be saving money from these retirements, but I do think it's sad," she said. "The history will be gone. This is a huge drain within the district."

Gray wanted to thank the retiring employees for all they've done. "There's no doubt, we're going to miss the experience," he added. "That's more than 4,000 years of teaching. We're certainly going to miss that. I wish them well."

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