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Retirements adding up in SCC School District

The St. Croix Central School District is losing 10 percent of its teaching staff due to retirements this year.

April 15 was the last day teachers could announce retirement and qualify for the local retirement benefit that is in the district's master contract; 11 SCC teachers are retiring this year.

The average number of retirees in recent years has been around three.

The SCC teachers retiring average around 27 years of experience.

Gloria Willert, second-grade teacher, has 35 years experience at SCC; Connie Mueller, sixth-grade language arts, 35; Vicki Ohrt, first-grade, 33; Cheryl Dougherty, fourth-grade, 33; Joanne Sanders, technology coordinator, 31; Patrick Abair, high school industrial technology, 30, Jodie Falde, kindergarten, 28; Jeanne Larson, elementary vocal music, 21; Vicki Ehlers, fifth-grade, 19; Barbara Bartos, elementary librarian, 18; and Judith Ptacek, eighth-grade language arts, 17.

District Administrator David Bradley said Ehlers was the only teacher who had indicated her interest in retiring after this year before the budget and bargaining debate arose at the Capitol.

Bradley said the general consensus among the teachers was that "they weren't confident that the same retirement benefits would be available to them in the future from the local level and the state level."

Bradley said, "It goes without saying that when you lose 300 years of collective experience in the district that you can't replace that. I'm afraid it's going to be like the old saying that 'You don't appreciate what you have until you lose it.' I'm guessing that we're going to miss this excellent group of dedicated professionals even more than we think we will."

Although the district is losing invaluable experience, the large number or retirements this year could actually save the district money.

"When we take into account the local retirement benefit, we calculate that we will save anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 on each new hire," said Bradley. "The range depends on the level of experience and education of the new hires and whether or not they take single or family health insurance."

Although the district has already started advertising for new hires, Bradley says the board is unsure whether it will fill all the vacant positions with new hires.

"We're taking a look at a couple of the positions and considering filling those roles in different capacities. We haven't made any decisions at this point," said Bradley. "We certainly don't want to just make cuts where it's convenient or easy; but at the same time, when staff retire we have the opportunity to look at doing things differently without having to displace anyone from their current job."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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