Temper Layoff With Full Retirements



It’s planning period for me at Payson High School. As a substitute teacher, I have a few minutes to write this before classes begin in earnest. Tim Fruth, the vice principal, is leading the Pledge of Allegiance over the school speaker system, as has been his practice for many years. As I recited the Pledge, I halted when I reached the phrase, “with Liberty and Justice for All.”

The mood in the office was gloomy when I signed in this morning. I greeted Tim and we chatted about the layoffs that affect both him and Roy Sandoval, the principal, at the end of this semester. It was a little awkward for me, since I didn’t feel that I could do much for them, except offering a somewhat gratuitous “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you or family” balm. On reflection, I decided that there is something I can do for these seasoned, dedicated professionals, whom I have known for five to 10 years. And that would be to write this, in hopes of planting the seeds of a very simple, but meaningful, idea for the immediate action of the school board and district administration.

That idea is so simple, yet infinitely positive in an atmosphere of draconian budget cuts to education: accelerate to full retirement the retirements for these gentlemen who have, over the years, given their all to this school system and community.

Both Tim and Roy are within one and two years of full retirement, so we’re not talking about an overwhelming task, just an obvious management decision that is the honorable and just (as in just) thing to do. From my years as a corporate officer and my military experience, there was always room for innovative thinking, along the lines of “the difficult we do immediately; the impossible will take a little longer.” I never wanted to hear why something couldn’t be accomplished, only how it will be done. “We can’t just ...” was not tolerated.

Education retirement funds are separate from operating resources, as they should be, for the obvious reason. If there is not provision for full retirement when layoff occurs within one to two years of full retirement, change the by-laws to correct this injustice. Don’t overcomplicate a simple problem. Just make it happen (thanks, Navy). Normally, a substitute teacher is not asked for his or her opinion in these matters. In this instance, let’s just say I made a management decision to offer what should not have to be a fresh, new and yes, doable idea. It’s the honorable thing to do. “Honor Over All.”

Lawrence D. Farrington


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