No decisions were made on the topic, but trustees were given a chance to voice their opinions about retirement incentives for teachers at the regular school board meeting on Tuesday night.
West Yellowstone Education Association president Rick Armstrong asked board members to consider implementing retirement incentives for teachers into their contracts.
Possible incentives could include teachers receiving more money upon retirement, having the school pay a certain portion of insurance for teachers, or receiving an increased percentage of money back for their unused sick leave.
Teachers currently receive up to 30 percent of their unused sick leave, up to a maximum of 120 days, when they either leave the West Yellowstone School District or retire, according to board chairman Maggie Anderson.
Armstrong believes incentives have the potential to save the school district money. He explained that funds could be freed up to hire someone with a lower salary if teachers receiving a higher paid salary retire or leave the district.
"This is good for the district. It could stall layoffs and provide budgetary leeway, for example," he said.
Anderson believes that the board and the negotiations committee need to make the soundest decision for the benefit of the school as a whole.
"The benefit from the perspective of the teachers is that they (the district) will gain dollars if they have a teacher retire that has a larger salary. If they retire then those dollars are freed up to replace them for hiring a teacher with less experience or time in the district," Anderson said.
Many factors are calculated into figuring out a teacher's salary, according to Anderson. Salaries are based on the credit, or number of years, a teacher has accumulated based on their education level, what certifications and experience they have and how much time they have been teaching in the West Yellowstone school district.
"This (retirement incentives) would save money because new people are on the lower end of the salary scale and it frees up this other money. The face value (of initially freeing up funds) of it is true, yes. However, you lose an experienced teacher and you don't know what your budget is for next year," Anderson said.
Anderson is concerned that if retirement incentives are offered on a one-time basis that it could set a precedent for teachers who are considering retirement options in the future.
"I don't know how many functioning teachers in our district would be happy if we gave a certain number of teachers a payment to leave and they don't get the same treatment," she said. "That is a precedent-setting risk."
It should be a teacher's personal decision to retire in Anderson's opinion.
If teachers have years of service and if they are participating in Teacher Retirement Services, which is a state-run retirement program, all of their years of service as a teacher in the state count towards their total years of service. After 25 years of service they can become eligible for retirement options, according to Anderson. Paid out time for unused sick leave, however, is not carried over from any other district and only counts for the time a teacher has served with the West Yellowstone school district.
Anderson can't recollect a time, in approximately 18 years of service with the school board, when a teacher from WYEA has come forth to discuss negotiations, such as retirement incentives, at a regular school board meeting.
Board trustee Kelly Burden conducted an informal poll with school districts comparable to West Yellowstone and what they offer in their retirement packages. Mainly other Class C districts were included in the poll, according to Anderson.
Burden's found that the retirement package offered to teachers in the West Yellowstone district fell somewhere in the middle of other packages, which she felt were comparable to what is currently offered at the White Sulphur Springs and Ennis school districts.
Anderson recommended that WYEA make a proposal to the negotiations committee with more specifics outlining requests for teacher retirement incentives.
The negotiations committee meets separately and trustees Gayle Archer and Burden act as representatives for the board, while Armstrong and Kevin Flanagan act as representatives for WYEA and the teachers. They then communicate different counter offers made by each side of the negotiations committee to their appropriate parties until an agreement is reached.
In other business, the board voted unanimously to approve Superintendent Lael Calton's requested contract changes. Her salary will increase two percent, which would equal an increase of $1,370, for the 2011-2012 school year. The board also approved her request to add another year to her current contract. She has two more years left on the contract, which will now be extended to equal a total of three years.
"We're glad you want to stay longer," Anderson said.
The board also presented the results of the annual Superintendent evaluation.
"The board has to evaluate me at this time of the year. The evaluation is based on how the board perceives I'm doing my job," Calton said.
She received an overall ranking of 1.79 based on the results Anderson presented to the board. The evaluation was based on a scoring system, with one being the highest scores Calton could receive and six being the lowest.
Calton discussed the goal to add an additional two to four classrooms to the elementary wing of the West Yellowstone School at last month's board meeting. She has hopes to secure bonds for the additional classrooms, but the project is still in the planning phases.
She met with Terry Sukut of JGA Architects, which is a company in Billings that has handled many school renovation projects, according to Calton.
Sukut suggested that the school district should create a master facility maintenance plan, which is a plan that could be used 30 years into the future, according to Calton.
"It's so that they can see what direction the school went (with repairs and updates) and why they went that way," Calton said.
The school also has several doorways, doorknobs and other features, for example, that are not in compliance with standards under the American Disability Act regulations. Calton would like to see those issues corrected.
"There are plenty of grants out there and some might be able to help with those changes," she said.
The board discussed the importance of paying attention to both the present and future needs of the school and what they do in terms of construction.
"The extra need right now is extra classrooms. I feel we're on some time constraints for these classrooms," Burden said.
Children aren't the only ones using the school facilities lately.
Adult education classes kicked off on Tuesday evening at the school.
"I am so happy this is happening," Calton said. "I wanted us to offer five classes and we ended up with 11 (being offered)."
A group of six students are going to travel far and wide for educational purposes. The board unanimously approved the International Club's proposal for their 2011 trip to Germany. The students in the club are tentatively set to travel across the land of sauerkraut and lederhosen from June 16-June 28. Several adult chaperones are also going on the trip.
The next regular West Yellowstone School board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in the school's art room.