I retired from the Hillsborough County School System on March 17, 2006. One day on my conference time I decided to call the school board and ask about retirement. I had worked for the system for many years, but was not certain of my start date. The retirement specialist asked me for my social security number and kindly looked up my start date. When she returned to the phone, she said “You need to retire now!.” I was a bit shocked and she then gave me more information.
The school system had a rather small window of opportunity to retire early. Basically if you had at least 23 years of continuous employment with the school system you could retire early, but it must be before teaching any day in the 24th year. I was informed that I had 23 1/2 years of service and that if I retired early I would be paid a retirement from the state system and an additional retirement from the local school system as an incentive to retire early.
At that time our school system had two additional opportunities. I could actually return to teaching in the same exact position after one full calendar month and receive the state retirement, but not the county retirement and I could return with my full salary and all of my years of experience pay. There was an additional window of opportunity after one full year of retirement and at that time I could return with my full salary and my state and local retirement.
These types of plans have a very small window of opportunity because the local system can take higher paid, although experienced, teachers out of the system and if they are out of the system from that point onward then the school system can save a substantial amount of money by hiring a new teacher at the low end of the salary pay schedule.
The problem was that there is often a need for certain teacher subject areas such as math and science. If these teachers take part in an early retirement, then giving them an incentive to return to teaching then can bring back teachers that may have stayed retired, but could fill a critical subject area teacher shortage.
I checked with my principal about my plan to retire and she intended to place a substitute in my position for at least one full calendar month and should I want to return and the position was still available then she would have rehired me. I had no preference for the position, but there were not many qualified science teachers available to fill my position. After one month I then told my principal that I would not return that school year and now would stay retired for one full calendar year. She now informed me that my position would be filled if possible, but if still open that I would be considered.
I still actually needed employment. I found employment with a local private college and this filled my needs and frankly was a lot less difficult. The students at the college level were in general easier to work with and proved to be a nice change. I had been teaching 9th grade science when I retired and now I teach college level classes.
Anyone considering retirement should look at such “Windows of Opportunity” that may be available and might also want to consider how rewarding such a change might be for them. Our school system has faced substantial budget cuts this past year and they no longer offer this level of incentive, but there are still some benefits to teachers that return to the classroom in critical shortage subject areas.