Union: Insurance issue will force many Churchill teachers to retire | NevadaAppeal.com

Union: Insurance issue will force many Churchill teachers to retire

MICHAEL MARESH
Nevada Appeal News Service

If an informal poll is any indication, the Churchill County School District will be losing several experienced teachers next year.

Under Nevada Senate Bill 544, nonstate employees must retire by Sept. 1, 2008, if they want to remain in the state’s Public Employees’ Benefits Program. If they choose not to retire, they will lose a state subsidy ranging from $91-$502 a month for their health insurance premiums.

Faced with this dilemma, Churchill County Education Association President Margie Villanueva, at the suggestion of the CCEA, conducted an informal survey to determine who is or is not thinking about retiring.

The results relayed to the school board Thursday night were staggering.

Of the 37 responders, 19 said they were retiring, and the other 18 said they were considering retiring because of the insurance issue.

Villanueva told the board the insurance topic has been a hot topic among educators.

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“A lack of communication with staff led to quite a feeling of panic in the school district,” she said, adding teachers with 25 years experience are now being told they are going to have pay $500 a month for insurance unless they retire before Sept. 1.

“We are finding ourselves in a quandary,” she said.

Villanueva said there are teachers who have spent their entire careers with the district and others who have come back to the community to teach where they were taught.

“We are being told that you can hire two (new) teachers for the price of one experienced one,” she said, adding experience cannot be replaced.

“When I go in for surgery, I do not want two interns working on me. I want the master surgeon,” Villanueva said.

If the district were to lose 37 experienced educators, Villanueva said it would mean a loss of 800-1,000 years of teaching experience.

She said it usually takes a new teacher about three years to gain the experience needed to be completely successful in the classroom.

“You are not saving money. Nothing comes free,” she passionately said. “If you lose one-tenth of your senior staff because of money, you are losing much, much more. Our teachers deserve the very best.”

She wondered how the high school would continue to make improvements if four of the nine English teachers were to retire because of SB 544.

“Maybe we should push back that retirement date to quell some of the panic. We are against the wall. Let’s look at all three different plans.

“There should be some loyalty and dedication. I think the dollar signs are overriding everything right now,” she added.

CCEA Vice President April Chester asked the board to set a timeline on the insurance issue, mentioning teachers are unsure of whether or not they should retire.

“Let’s get a timeline, and let’s get moving on this,” she said. “We do need to make the application right away with PEBP to see the costs.”