Mass Retirement Imminent among San Diego Unified Teachers and Staff

This winter, due to a December 31st retirement incentive from the San Diego Unified School District, many teachers and administrators will be retiring over the holiday break. Among the group retiring, according to union members, are 130 teachers, 26 administrators, and around 200 employees such as janitors and other non-teaching school positions.

As these positions become vacant, it raises the question of who will be hired to fill the plethora of positions that will be vacant, and will this affect whether schools in San Diego can reopen? Teachers are supposed to welcome students back at the beginning of January for elementary schools and the end of January for middle and high schools, but with a significant amount of retirement coming, one may wonder if that is going to be possible.

In an email obtained by VOSD, Kisha Borden, president of the teachers’ union, said union officials tried to get the district to offer the retirement deal at the end of the school year, rather than in the middle.

“Ultimately, they were insistent that the only type of incentive they would agree to is one that was for people who retired December 31 without any flexibility,” Borden wrote in an email. “The Education Code wouldn’t allow them to use substitutes to cover a classroom without an assigned teacher, but the District has assured us that their regular hiring process will allow them to have enough applicants to fill vacancies that still exist on January 4.”

There has been some worry that too many people are leaving their positions too quickly, and some teachers are questioning why the district would even put in an incentive to leave at a time like this.

“The kids definitely have the short end of the stick,” said Serra High School physics teacher Ralf Uebel. “I don’t have enough detail about it, but it seems like this is just about the money. … This makes us look like the jerks too, and I can see the public raising concerns. ‘You come here and leave kids out to dry for three weeks.’ My main question is why is the district even putting everyone in this situation?”

Uebel is one of the many staff members who is taking the retirement deal, but views the timing and lack of a plan as a significant problem. He also has concerns that if substitutes are used, they may not be well equipped to teach, especially due to the year’s modified schedule which is a result of COVID-19

“Instead of 180 days’ instruction, there’s only 90 days per classroom,” he said.

Uebel brought up the possibility of public concerns, and there definitely have been some. One parent, Suzy Reid, mentioned that parents are “sitting on edge,” regarding their children’s education amid the pandemic.

“Parents don’t know there is going to be a shakeup, and we are already sitting on edge about our child’s education and what’s happening on that. I don’t think the mid-year (retirements) happen this often and to have it happen this year, this adds an extra layer of confusion for the teachers and the students and it’s disruptive.”