School District of Antigo loses 18 teachers to retirement, could face a similar problem next yearSubmitted: 08/28/2014

Kaitlyn Howe

ANTIGO - The School District of Antigo will see a lot of new faces this fall.

The district hired 26 new teachers this year.

They lost so many teachers last year because of retirements and teachers leaving for bigger districts.

The district can't always pay teachers as much as larger districts can, especially teachers in specialized subjects, such as special education or science.

"We've tended overall on average to be in the middle of the pack, but at some levels we're falling behind," says Antigo School District Interim District Administrator Don Childs. "Particularly in areas of high need and specialty. You'll find there are districts that are willing to pay premiums and that sometimes draws people as well away from another district."

This isn't a problem only faced by Antigo schools.

Some teachers are drawn away by a desire to live in a bigger city.

"Typically you don't have all the necessary social infrastructure that you get in a larger community, in an urban area," says Childs. "For a lot of people that's the kind of environment they want."

Teachers going to larger school districts wasn't the only reason Antigo lost so many employees.

Eighteen teachers retired last year alone, and the district could be facing a similar problem at the end of this school year.

The district used to pay for up to 90 months of health insurance for teachers after they retired, but that policy cost the district millions of dollars.

"[A] couple of years ago, the board acted to end that practice because it was extraordinarily expensive, and the state was requiring us to count that in our accounting as one of our best accounting practices. We couldn't just write it off as an annual payment anymore. We had to take it on as an obligation," says Childs.

This is the last year teachers can take advantage of those retirement benefits.

"Others might not have always elected to do so this early. They want to take advantage of that benefit, so we had 18 people," says Childs. "We'll probably have people again who will take advantage of it."

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