Early retirement bonus again offered to Flagler teachers

Eight teachers announced too soon and won't get the option of about $14,000 to incentivize retirement.

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In a move that could save Flagler Schools $1 million in teacher salaries in the coming years, the School Board approved on May 25 an incentive for eligible teachers to retire early: a bonus of 18% of their salary, in addition to the $6,000 standard bonus.

More than nine out of 10 teachers approved of the plan, according to Flagler County Educators Association President Katie Hansen. School Board member Janet McDonald called the plan a “win-win” and, like others on the School Board, was relieved that teachers were accepting of the offer despite one imperfect stipulation — that the benefit only applies to teachers who declare sometime between May 1 and June 30 their intention to retire. That means that if teachers told their administrators in January, for example, that they were going to retire, they are not eligible for the added 18% benefit — only the $6,000 bonus.

"If you have given 32-35 years of your life [to Flagler Schools], and you’ve missed this cutoff by a handful of days, that, to me, is inexcusable."

COLLEEN CONKLIN, dissenting School Board member

Finance Director Patty Wormeck said eight teachers who declared early will miss out on the extra money, which would be $14,400 for a senior teacher making $80,000 per year.

“While the number is small, if you have given 32-35 years of your life, and you’ve missed this cutoff by a handful of days, that, to me, is inexcusable,” said School Board member Colleen Conklin, who was the lone dissenter in the 4-1 vote to approve the deal. “We should have figured it out to look at the unintended consequences.”

The added benefit to retire early was also offered last year, after many teachers said they were uncomfortable returning to the classroom during the pandemic. Wormeck said 35 staff members took advantage of the offer, including 14 teachers, and she expects similar numbers this year.

Last year, with the retirees being replaced by starting teachers at salaries of $47,500, and even when including the one-time bonuses paid out, Flagler Schools saved $135,000. In the second year, the district saved $395,000. Year 3 was projected to yield a savings of $417,000.

The savings help, but, Wormeck said, “it was really COVID-based; it wasn’t based on saving money, just trying to do something for our employees.”

Prior to last year, the 18% bonus had not been available for more than a decade. Each year, the School Board considers anew whether it’s beneficial to offer a bonus for retiring early. School Board members said they would like to commit to a schedule for making that decision, so that teachers can time their retirement announcements accordingly.


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