Teachers in Meade County camp out for early retirement benefit

Teachers in Meade County camp out a day early to get their hands on an early retirement incentive. (KEVN)
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STURGIS, SD (KEVN) - Teachers started setting up camp outside of the Meade School District Administration Building in Sturgis on Sunday, a day before they would get the opportunity to gain access to an early retirement benefit.

" I have a list showing who's here and what time they arrived. I have the email that we got saying that this was the day we had to show up 7 a.m. tomorrow morning and I have my retirement notice and I have the negotiated agreement that states this is when we need to be here. This is just in case the police shows up," said Kathy Seymour who has been teaching in Meade County for 28 years.

A few years back, teachers say the district decided it would eliminate the early retirement incentive completely.

A negotiation was made to have the benefit extended for five more years settling at $1.5 million more.

According to an agreement between the Meade Education Association and Meade School District 46-1, "any teacher who has completed ten years of service in Meade 46-1, and has attained or will attain at least the age of 55 as of December 31 of the year of retirement, may receive an early retirement benefit upon permanent severance of employment with the
district."

If eligible, teachers are paid 70% of their highest three contracted salaries, the district only distributing $300,000 per year.

The process being first come first served, Seymour did not make it last year being number six in the line.

"I was just a few minutes too late. I was the first person to be told that the money was gone so I wasn't going to let that happen a second year so I am here and I'll be here at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning when they open the door," she said.

The determined educators said although they have had conversations with the district about the incentive process not moving the most productively throughout the years, they are grateful to still walk away with something.

"It's caused some heartache and some anger and some discontent but that's any business so at least we have it. We have it that we can try to get. In five years there won't be any," said Carolyn Schuldies who has taught 27 years in the district.

The provisions of the early retirement incentive will remain available until the start of the 2021-22 school year.