Rhinebeck elementary school losing 5 teachers

The Rhinebeck School District is heading into uncharted waters, with a slew of mid-year teacher retirements announced at the Oct. 8 Board of Education meeting.

Five educators at Chancellor Elementary School will be retiring at the end of December and January. They are: Pamela Kalliche, one of three kindergarten teachers; Linda Mortenson, one of four first-grade teachers; Joan Berland, one of four third-grade teachers; and both physical education teachers, William Hicks and Liz Irwin.

Parent Mary Krembs voiced her concern during the public comment section of the meeting. “Parents are wondering what is motivating this, this somewhat mass exodus. So my first question is: I assume we did not know that these retirements were going to occur?” she asked.

She continued, “Each of these teachers has dedicated his or her career to the students and I’m personally … in debt to at least one of them, for the profound, positive effect that she had on my children. I in no way begrudge any of our teachers that are retiring.”

But she questioned how the school district would be able to afford to pay the retirees as well as the new hires and wondered at the legality of mid-year retirements.

Superintendent Joe Phelan wiped her questions away, saying that the retirements would most likely save money because many of the teachers had over 20 years of service in the district and that there is nothing illegal about the timing of the retirements.

The district posted this announcement on its website: “While mid-year retirements are not unprecedented, the recent number of teachers who are retiring mid-year from our elementary school after long and distinguished teaching careers is unusual and somewhat unexpected. This is something that we have not experienced in these numbers in the recent past.

“However, these retirement notices provide the District with more than adequate time to recruit and hire replacement teachers and allow the opportunity for a proper transition from the retiring teachers to the new members of our instructional staff. Some of these retirees have expressed an interest in participating at some level in the search process … and we welcome that participation.”

Phelan added that new hires would be offered the chance to sit in on classes for substitute wages for a few weeks in a sort of passing of the guard that is similar to long-term subs in maternity-leave situations.

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