Dayton scrambles to fill teaching vacancies

Retirement system changes prompt more retirements than usual.

Four months into the school year, Dayton Public Schools is trying to fill 35 teaching jobs after changes to the state teachers’ pension system gave incentive for many of its most experienced educators to retire.

“This next year we’re kind of anticipating larger numbers than usual for retirement,” said Ida Nalls, associate director of professional learning at DPS.

Nalls interviewed 81 applicants at a job fair Saturday. Nineteen were given commitment letters before walking out the door. An additional 20 were noted as having “great potential” for future consideration.

According to Ohio State Teachers Retirement System documents, more teachers filed for retirement in 2014-15 than any other school year on record. In all Ohio school districts, a key factor in the surge of retirements is a change in the rules governing retirement plans, which teachers and districts contribute to throughout their careers.

Through June 2015, a qualifying teacher of any age could retire and collect 66 percent of their salary once they had 30 years of service, or they could collect 77 percent of their salary annually if they retired at age 60 with 35 years of service. Those rules will gradually change from now until 2026, with the 60/35 standard staying the same, but benefits being signficiantly reduced for people who retire before that age or service level.

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In the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, Dayton Public Schools reported 90 retirements and 127 other resignations among the 1,046 teachers, nurses, counselors and other staff covered by the Dayton Education Association contract.

“We had quite a few teachers come out statewide because it was a wise financial decision for them,” Nalls said.

She said the district anticipates more resignations this year but hopes that, shortly afterwards, the numbers will begin to stabilize.

DPS is offering incentives to potential hires, including a living stipend of $1,000 for first-year teachers. As of August, only person had taken advantage of the program. Updated numbers were not available Monday, but Nalls said she believes “a few” more have signed up.

Asked why she believes aspiring teachers should make a career in Dayton versus other public schools in the area, Nalls responded with the message she said she gave every applicant Saturday: “You can become the difference at Dayton Public Schools.”

“It’s very important for kids to go to school and have teachers that are willing to educate them,” said Dayton resident Kim Kelly, whose son is in the 7th grade at Meadowdale Elementary. “His teacher he had last year was very good; anytime there was a problem, he called me.”

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