Hamilton County's District 4 school board representative Tiffanie Robinson issued an apology to all Hamilton County Schools staff and teachers Monday in light of a comment made last week about Superintendent Bryan Johnson's proposed retirement incentive plan.
Robinson commented on the superintendent's strategy of offering retirement bonuses to eligible employees in last week's Times Free Press article titled, "Hamilton County Schools superintendent lays out plan to entice older teachers to retire."
In that article, she noted that "many new CEOs or superintendents come up with ways to sort of weed out some of the older, more expensive and possibly less effective employees who don't align with their vision," she said.
On Monday, Robinson released the following statement:
Dear Hamilton County Education Family:
I would like to extend to you my apology for the article that appeared in the Times Free Press concerning the retirement incentive. The article left me mortified and extremely upset. I am sure many of you were as well, and I can understand. I was distraught because the comments attributed to me in the story do not reflect my true feelings about our veteran staff members.
The reporter and I discussed the concepts that appeared in the paper, but my thoughts centered on the public possibly thinking we were putting the incentive in place for those reasons. I do not personally feel that way about our veteran educators. When talking with the media, sometimes ideas and discussions become intertwined, and the responsibility is mine to make sure I relay my thoughts precisely. I take full responsibility for not distinguishing my concerns for what others in the community may think from my feelings regarding the incentive, and for not making my position clear in the interview.
Please know that I value each educator in our school system family for the contributions you make each day in the lives of our children. You dedicate your time, and on many occasions spend your own money, because you understand the impact you have on the future of the children in our schools. I have a special respect for our educators who have continued this commitment for 15, 20, and 25 years or more. I know you have accepted this calling because you understand what you do has a much higher purpose. I thank each of you for your service!
In my view, the retirement incentive is a small gesture by the system and the board to thank you for your years of service. For those who can take advantage of this incentive, I would love to keep you in our education family and would welcome your decision to continue working with our children. However, I understand that we also experience transitions in life and there may be a need to focus on family, health or other concerns. If you find yourself in one of those transitions times, I hope this retirement incentive will help you plan for the future. You have earned this opportunity.
I pledge my support for all dedicated educators from first-year teachers, mid-career bus drivers, school nutrition workers, veteran teachers, and administrators who are providing a spark that will ignite a passion for learning in a child that will last a lifetime.
Thank you for what you do each day in our schools.
School Board District 4
The school board voted 7-1 to approve the plan at last week's board meeting. The early retirement incentive program is for eligible teachers and district officials and is expected to give the district a short-term economic windfall.
With 150 people projected to take advantage of early retirement, the incentive package is estimated to have a one-time cost of $6.5 million. The savings generated by the retirement incentive are estimated to be about $20,000 per person.
Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at email@example.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.