A small change to the Decorah School District's early retirement package could save the District even more money.
At Monday's meeting of the Decorah School Board, the Board unanimously approved a change in language, following a request by Decorah Middle School Teacher Meg Storkamp.
Last month, the Board approved an early retirement package, which Superintendent Mike Haluska said could save the District up to $1.5 million over the next four years. At the time, he said there were 17 teachers in the District who qualified.
The policy reads that in order to be eligible, someone must meet the following requirements:
They must be at least 55 years of age by Aug. 15, 2014
They must have completed their contracted responsibilities no later than Aug. 15, 2014
They must have been employed by the Decorah School District for at least 15 years
Their age plus the number of total years of public school employment in the United States must equal at least 80 years on Aug. 15, 2014.
Storkamp, who spent 10 years teaching at St. Benedict School prior to joining the Decorah District 15 years ago, said she took issue with the "public school" requirement in the retirement offer.
Storkamp said when she was hired by the Decorah School District, her time at St. Benedict figured into her compensation.
"I'm now at Step 25, but with regard to retirement, those 10 years are gone," she said.
Storkamp questioned if the District was trying to invalidate her experience as a teacher in a parochial school.
"This (addressing the Board) is not a kneejerk reaction. But I thought someone has to ask this question and I appreciate this opportunity," said Storkamp.
In responding to Storkamp's concerns, Haluska said the way the early retirement plan was written predates anyone currently on the Board.
"I have no idea why, nor do I have anybody to talk to about why the word 'public' was there," said Haluska.
Board President Ron Fadness told Storkamp the Board had no intentions of making the distinction between public and parochial school.
"I think if we had been aware of this issue before we drafted this, it probably would have been a no brainer," said Fadness.
"We want to be fair to you and fair to the District and we want to do what's right," said Board Member Brian Petersburg.
During the discussion, Board Member Cindy Schissel noted if what the Board is trying to do is save the District money by offering retirement, changing the language would create additional savings.
Haluska said in addition to Storkamp, there are two additional teachers who have similar backgrounds and may be interested in early retirement in the future.
He also said the early retirement document is not a Board policy, it is a program offered by the District.
The Board next approved adding the words "or accredited non-public school."
Tietz assured Storkamp the Board had no intention of invalidating her parochial-school experience.
"Next time we'll have a closer eye on policy," said Fadness.