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Schools Plan for A Wave of Retirements

Two top administrators will be among the 13 school district employees retiring this school year, thanks at least in part to a golden handshake offered by the Laguna Beach district to teachers and staff in March.

The district’s administrative office takes the biggest blow, with both assistant superintendents, Nancy Hubbell (instructional services) and Norma Shelton (business services), taking their leave, as well as its director of facilities Eric Jetta and human resources coordinator Patty Beaver.

Earlier this year, in the hope of reducing personnel costs among the district’s 313 employees, its 171 teachers and 148 staff members were offered a special incentive by their respective state-run pension plans, allowing them to retire now but receive retirement benefits as though they had worked an additional two years.

For the incentive to take affect, school officials needed to ensure that it would not add to the district’s costs.

As it turned out, the 13 soon-to-be retirees will result in an overall cost savings to the district, based on weighing their current salaries against retirement benefit costs the district must pay into the two state pension systems, as well as the cost of replacing the employees, Hubbell explained.

Both Hubbell and Shelton insisted that the golden handshake represented only one factor of many in their decision.

“I love my job,” said Hubbell, a 16-year employee, first as director of special education and student services from 1988 to 1996, and in her current position since 2004, where she has been instrumental in implementing forward-thinking educational practices. “It’s been highly gratifying work.” Even so, she admits looking forward to traveling and enjoying the cultural and recreational activities that long hours at the office don’t permit.

“Our district is in such great shape,” she said, indicating that the vacated positions, including her own, effective Aug. 27, should be easy to fill with highly qualified new people. “We are very well-organized and we are a district where people want to be.”

Shelton, an 11-year district employee, said the district “is a dynamic organization, and I will miss the good work accomplished here on a day-to-day basis and the people that have come to be my friends.” Of the golden handshake, she said, “while it is a savings to the district, it is also a welcome benefit to me.”

Scheduled to retire on June 30, Shelton will have a hand in hiring her replacement.

The high school will also see some turnover with the imminent departures of assistant principal Gretchen Ernsdorf, community relations clerk Jeannie Harrell, and librarian Lillian Jones. And the arts department, which lost Peter Tiner last year, takes a double hit this year with the retirement of long time ceramics teacher Bill Darnall and of photography, leadership and video production teacher Pamela MacKay.

Top of the World will lose physical education instructional assistant and playground supervisor Clara Candelaria, special education instructional assistant Sally Salter, and first grade teacher Margaret Arnold; while El Morro Elementary will say goodbye to librarian Claudia Cameron.

Administrators are scrambling to screen candidates and set up interviews. Recommendations for replacements are due to the board for most of the open positions at the June 26 meeting, said Hubbell.

To date, 19 employees will leave this year, including the 13 retirees and six others who are leaving for other reasons than retirement, routine year-end staff turnover. Other eligible teachers and staff may yet opt for the incentive, good through Aug. 31.

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