LINCOLN – Superinten-dent of Schools Georgia Fortunato informed the School Committee at its regular meeting Monday night that 12 teachers and guidance counselors have chosen to submit their plans for retirement come June, while another will retire in January.
The committee, with three members absent — including Julie Zito, Mary Varr and Tracey Cavanaugh — voted unanimously (4-0) to accept those retirements.
“That's a lot of years of experience they have,” Fortunato stated Tuesday afternoon, explaining the 13 have combined for over 308 years of teaching or counseling within the Lincoln Public School District.
“As I told everyone (Monday) night, these are very talented and dedicated educators who have left their legacy on the Lincoln School Department,” she added. “One thing, for sure, is that Lincoln's students have greatly benefited by having them as teachers.”
The list of 12 includes Maureen Powell, Lonsdale Elementary second-grade teacher (23 years in Lincoln); Katherine Nenna, LHS guidance counselor (30 years); Barbara Holt, Lonsdale, fourth grade (23); Jeannette McCaffrey, Northern, first grade (27); Christine Bell, LHS English (25.5); Susan Cawley, LHS family/consumer science (17); Wayne Brooder, LHS social studies (20 years); John Menna, (LHS special education (25); Edward Hunt, LHS guidance (32); Michael Sullivan, LHS special education (26); James Dempsey, LHS special education (17); and Pamela Azar, LMS sixth grade social studies (8).
Mary (“Bonney”) Asquith, who spent 25 years as a special educator at the high school, will retire after the holidays.
Fortunato indicated that, as always, those teachers/counselors will be honored with a reception prior to the final 2011 School Committee meeting on June 11. During the meeting, both she and the committee will present formal, signed citations to those individuals for their devotion and hard work over the decades.
“This is definitely a blow, losing so many educators who are seasoned veterans,” Fortunato stated. “They had a Dec. 1 deadline to file with the Superintendent's Office, and if they tell us they will retire the following June, they are eligible to receive their retirement incentive.”
That incentive, or bonus, is that they will be paid for all unused sick days (up to 200 days). According to Article XIII, Section C of the School District's by-laws, “a retirement bonus will be paid to teachers who have 15 years longevity in the Lincoln School Department. The retiree will be entitled to $40 per day up to 200 days of unused, accumulated sick leave. The rate per day shall double to $80 for no more than 16 unused days accrued during the final year of employment.
“In no event shall a teacher be paid for more than 200 days,” it continued.
When asked if the retirements, all of which were submitted in late November, had something to do with Rhode Island's pension reform issues earlier this year, Fortunato stated, “I don't know why they came to this decision, although I think it had something to do with age and the amount of years they taught.
“There's a possibility that the pension reform talk played a role, but given their tenures, it was obviously something they gave a lot of thought to prior to the (General Assembly's) November vote on that reform,” she continued. “I noticed they all had a prevailing theme, that they thoroughly enjoyed their work within our school system.
“I also think everyone agrees that the town of Lincoln and the community is very supportive of education and what they have done … Replacing them will be very difficult. After all, these educators have been important members of the Lincoln school community for all these years. You're considered a 'master teacher' when you've been in their positions for so long. I consider each and one of them exceptional at their jobs.”
She explained she and the committee will not rush into hiring new teachers and counselors, and that appropriate school officials will look at the upcoming fiscal year's budget in January.
“We will hold budget workshops that will be open to the public (at the Lincoln High School library), and – by Feb. 1 – we have to submit our school budget to the Town Administrator (T. Joseph Almond),” she said. “Between February and the Financial Town Meeting in May, we will work closely with the Budget Board on our FY 2012-13 school budget. Once it's approved, we'll determine how many positions we'll fill.
“It's always a goal to fill positions as soon as possible, as you're always competing with other school districts, but we hope to have our staff in place by July.”
At meeting's end, Lincoln Teachers Association President and school social worker Mary Ann McComiskey praised the work of those retirees.
“We're mourning the loss of so many outstanding teachers; it's nearly 10 percent of the (high school teaching) population,” she said. “We have to realize that so many teachers retiring will definitely affect our school district. With that said, I'm amazed. Those people have over 275 years of wisdom that will be retiring with them.
“We'll certainly miss them all; they have inspired all of us to do and be the best we can,” she continued. “I congratulate them all, and I wish them a long, healthy, happy retirement.”
Fortunato claimed its never too early to apply for one of those open positions, and that candidates' resumes and application packets should be sent to Eric Banville, Lincoln School District, Human Resources Director, 1624 Lonsdale Ave., Lincoln, R.I. 02865.
In other news, School Committee Chair Elizabeth (“Betty”) Robson formally issued a citation and a bouquet of flowers to Central Elementary third-grade teacher Robin Ryan for her capture of the “Golden Apple Award” back on Oct. 28.
The weekly laurel was awarded to Ryan by R.I. Department of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist and WJAR-TV (Ch. 10) news anchor Patrice Wood at a “surprise” assembly inside the Central cafeteria.
The two agencies, in conjunction with Hasbro, Inc. of Pawtucket, work closely with the state's Department of Education to honor those who are outstanding in the education field.
“We want to congratulate you for all you do; you make us so proud,” Robson offered. “I can speak first-hand as to the excellence of her work, as she taught my two children … She treats every child as if they were her own.”
Stated Ryan: “The recognition was overwhelming, and everyone has been so wonderful. It's such an honor to teach. My husband teaches at the middle school, so we're very vested and honored to be a part of the Lincoln School Department. We so appreciate all you've done.”
The committee also recognized the Lincoln High girls' varsity soccer team for snaring the Division II-North championship and finishing as state D-II runner-up.
Committee members Mary Ann Roll and Kristine Donabedian gave citations to players Sarena Balon, Sara Blackwood, Anne Carroll, Aidan Cullen, Marissa D'Amelio, Jillian DeSimone, Erin Gannon, Kristen Giarusso, Lauren Hervieux, Olivia Maxell, Ashley Moreau, Sarah Oates, Brittany Redding, Paige Snyder, Melissa Sorkin, Elizabeth Young and Megan Young, not to mention head coach John D'Aloisio and assistant Christopher Allen.
Seconds later, Roll and Donabedian issued similar citations to the Lincoln Middle School girls' soccer team for garnering the Northern Division title for the third straight year. Those players included Samantha Andrews, Christina Bacon, Olivia Brigido, Gabriela Carson, Megan Chatowsky, Lauren Christo, Bethany Denio, Alexandra Fish, Taylor Furtado, Jianna Iaciofano, Maya LaFleur, Allison Leal, Samantha Leal, Leila Loparto, Gianna Marchetti, Elizabeth Mann, Megan McPeak, Allison O'Reilly, Martha Peppes, Christin Redding, Lexi Revis and Victoria Williams.
Roll then looked up to the middle school stage and credited fellow member John LaFleur for coaching the squad.
“Can you imagine how those girls will do when they reach high school?” Fortunato said with a chuckle.