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Education/Schools

April 8, 2014

Greater Clark County Schools extends retirement deadline

Changes to state programs prompted change

CLARK COUNTY — Employees of Greater Clark  County Schools have a little extra time to decide whether to retire this year and get severance benefits after a vote at Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting.

Changes to state teacher and public employee benefits programs, which take effect Oct. 1, are the reason for extending the deadline from March 1 to May 30.

Sandra Lewis, general counsel for the district, said though the district had extended the deadline in the past, it was usually because it wanted to make sure the district got as many employees to leave without having to resort to layoffs and reductions in force.

“This year, the reason is not so much that we’re trying to encourage retirements for reduction in force needs, but there’s been sweeping changes in the [teacher retirement fund] and [public employee retirement fund] eligibility requirements as far as their investment opportunities,” Lewis said. “That’s going to hit in October and there are still many people in the corporation who have TRF and PERF eligibility that are still trying to decide, financially, if they need to retire at this time.”

According to www.in.gov’s public retirement system webpage, the changes will mean annuities will be offered with a lower interest rate and affect other benefits.

Greater Clark provides qualifying retirees with a $2,000 severance benefit if they meet the deadline for their announcement.

Tony Hall, board member, asked Lewis if it made more sense to move back the date permanently, especially since the district implemented a balanced calendar system.

Lewis said the board would have to work on that with the Greater Clark Education Association on its next contract. She said when the current contract expires in 2015, it could include a provision for a new deadline.

E-cig, old cigs, no cigs

The board also simultaneously and unanimously passed three policies that will prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes on or in any building in the district.

The updated policies for a smoke-free environment, drugs, alcohol and tobacco and student discipline were passed unanimously, banning the devices throughout the corporation.

Hall asked whether it made more sense to allow their use in schools and potentially wean students or staff off cigarettes altogether.

“Is it better for the body?” Hall said. “Is this still bad? What I’m getting to, if we encourage people to use e-cigarettes and have a designated area for this, maybe we could get them off of the real thing and help everybody out.”

Lewis said testing on the ingredients in the nicotine liquid the cigarettes use still garners inconclusive results, but it was safer to ban them than take any risk.

“I think it’s still so unknown as to what the hazards can be and might be, that most recommendations now say that we try to avoid encouraging that,” Lewis said. “It could possibly be another form of an addictive situation or it doesn’t resolve the issue, it just transplants.”

In other news at the meeting:

• The board extended a contract for substitute employee services from Professional Education Services Group, LLC. Superintendent Andrew Melin said the full-time employee from the company that handles all replacements is a valuable resource, especially since she works in the central office. The measure passed unanimously.

• The board also approved contracts for speakers at its second annual eLearning Summer Conference. The event focuses on the use of technology in the classroom and how to best utilize it, while making it meaningful to the instruction teachers are given. The three contracts total $6,000.

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