School district playing 'musical chairs' after 58 employees retire

Fifty-eight employees of the Richmond County School District have retired. (WRDW-TV)
Fifty-eight employees of the Richmond County School District have retired. (WRDW-TV)
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News 12 First at Five / Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- We are halfway through the school year and teachers and principals are being shuffled around schools in Richmond County and across Georgia. Some call it an exodus, others call it a game of musical chairs.

That is because starting Jan. 1, any educator who hasn't retired loses their pension by 3 percent. This is after a recent change in state law. The deadline was last Friday which is leaving districts scrambling to fill spots.

Dr. Melissa Shepard is principal at Spirit Creek Middle School as of Monday.

She was moved after eight years at Sue Reynolds Elementary to replace a retiring principal. A principal who is one of dozens of others retiring last week.

Take a look at this breakdown (58 positions total):
- 19 teachers
- 4 principals
- 1 assistant principal
- 1 executive director
- 33 other positions in non-teaching roles

PTA President Monique Braswell says this couldn't come at a worse time.

"That is playing musical chairs with our children," she said. "From August, these children have been looking at these principals, wave at them in the morning, and they say goodbye in the evening, and they are used to those principals' routine," she said.

Dr. Shepard she's sure parents were nervous about getting a new principal.

Parents like Cheryl Tutt, who tried to set up a meeting with a principal to talk about her son's grades.

Tutt told News 12, "You come and speak with the principal, I don't even know who the principal is."

She is even giving the district's slogan of "Learning today and leading tomorrow" a new name: "Learning today and LEAVING tomorrow."

Educators are leaving in the middle of the school year -- starting last week, to be exact.

"November the 30th, if they didn't leave, they would actually lose 3 percent of their pension," Braswell said.

Meanwhile, for Dr. Shepard, who is just four days on the new job ...

"At this point, it's just to continue the great work that's being done here," she said.

The school district says they plan to fill all of the teaching positions, however, they are scrutinizing the others to find out if those are as crucial or duties can be tacked onto other roles.

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