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The Daily Tar Heel

Retired Teachers May Return

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County school systems will utilize their ability to rehire retired teachers in the case of such a shortage.

The threat of shortages prompted the N.C. General Assembly to allow local districts to hire teachers out of retirement, paying their salaries in addition to existing retirement benefits.

The policy states that teachers who return to work must be retired for at least 12 months.

With this clause, teachers would not be induced into early retirement or retire prematurely simply to collect benefits and salary concurrently.

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Ward said some of the legislative conflict was based on the possibility that the system could be abused.

"(The policy was created) to avoid abuses and protect the integrity of the retirement system, which thus far has been stellar," Ward said.

Raymond Cooke, associate superintendent for human resources, said Orange County Schools officials fear the potential threat of a teacher shortage.

"We're all facing a growing teacher shortage, particularly in math, science and special education," he said. "The state universities just aren't producing."

Cooke also said the policy was needed to maintain the high educational standards of Orange County and the state as a whole.

Cooke cited the rising teacher salaries in North Carolina, 7.5 percent for the past four years, as an additional incentive to bring and retain high-caliber teachers in the state. "About half of the teachers in North Carolina come from out of state," he said.

Cooke said the state draws from the saturated teacher pools in states such as Pennsylvania and New York. He also said this fact is evidence that the state needs to provide incentives for qualified teachers.

But Ward said the Orange County and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools have had fewer problems acquiring qualified teachers.

Orange County Schools have yet to hire any formerly retired teachers.

Mary Gunderson, coordinator of teacher recruitment and support for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said she applauded the legislature for creating a flexible system. "It certainly gives us options," she said.

Gunderson also cited the need for teachers in specialized programs and for when teachers leave during the course of the school year.

She noted the allure of the Triangle as the reason for Chapel Hill and Orange County's exception to the problem of teacher shortages. "We're fortunate that the area itself attracts families and individuals," Gunderson said.

Ward said the state stands to benefit from the flexibility of recalling retired teachers. "It's time to open (the policy) up to other categories. So far it appears to have been a very successful policy."

The City Editor can be reached


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