Richmond County schools are tasked this month with replacing educators who retired midyear to take advantage of an expiring tax adjustment, leaving substitutes in some classrooms for an indefinite period.
Nineteen teachers and four principals retired Nov. 30, the deadline to receive a 3 percent tax adjustment on pensions provided by the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia.
Chief Human Resources Officer Normal Hill said about 10 full-time teachers have been hired to fill the vacancies and the remaining positions are being covered by substitutes until more hires are made.
“I feel pretty confident that they’ll be able to have people in place to fill those classrooms,” Hill said. “There’s no way to anticipate which individuals would raise their hands and opt to retire. Our goal was to get out ahead of it by having dialogues with school administrators … but they didn’t know until teachers raised their hands. Several did so in the ninth hour.”
Two of the four principal vacancies were filled last month, and the positions were approved by the Richmond County Board of Education. Curtis Douglas Frierson, previously the assistant principal for instruction at the Academy of Richmond County, took over as principal of Garrett Elementary when Paula Kaminski retired.
Melissa Shepard, previously the principal of Sue Reynolds Elementary School, was approved as principal of Spirit Creek Elementary when Marie Braswell retired.
Hill said replacements for Terrace Manor Elementary Principal Hartley Gibbons and Jenkins White Elementary Charter School Principal Janie Norris could be approved at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“The principals are really committed to getting the right people in place to replace those individuals,” Hill said.
Besides teachers and principals, 35 other Richmond County School System employees retired by the Nov. 30 deadline.
Most are classified employees, such as janitors and cafeteria workers, but they also include one assistant principal, the executive director of high schools, a counselor and a special education liaison.
Board President Alex Howard said replacing the 58 employees is important but that the classroom positions should come first.
Because the retirees’ positions were already built into the budget, it wouldn’t cost the system to replace them. Leaving vacancies unfilled is an option often considered during budget discussions, but Howard said he doesn’t expect substitutes to handle instruction positions long term.
“The teachers are a priority to me,” Howard said. “With the state offering early retirement, anybody in the classroom is a priority. Otherwise we’d have to increase class sizes to make up for them.”