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updated: 3/18/2014 10:01 AM

U-46 braces for waves of retirees

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Elgin Area School District U-46 is bracing for several waves of employee retirements -- estimated to be more than 300 employees -- between now and academic year 2016-2017.

Officials are working on a plan to replace them internally and with new hires.

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"Last year we had a retiring class of about 142 people," said Melanie Meidel, U-46 assistant superintendent of human resources. "It looks alarming because of the size of our district."

The state's second-largest school district has more than 40,000 students.

A total of 83 employees is set to retire at the end of the current school year, including nine administrators and 42 teachers whose base salaries collectively amount to roughly $1 million and $3.1 million, respectively.

"There's going to be some internal movement and after we get everybody settled in, then we go to the outside (to hire)," Meidel said.

Officials already have started recruiting for most of the administrative positions, which they hope to get filled before the end of the current school year. They will begin recruiting teachers starting April 24 and hope to get the staffing in place for the next school year before summer break.

Meidel said officials can't say whether the district will save any money from the retirements until after hiring is completed, because some positions could be consolidated and replacement hires could start at a lower pay grade based on the levels of experience.

These retirements also provide the district an opportunity to hire more minorities -- something officials have identified as a priority because of the wide gap between the number of minority students and minority teachers.

U-46's student population is one of the most diverse -- 68 percent of its more than 40,000 students are ethnic minorities. Yet, it is among districts with the largest gap between the portion of minority students and that of minority teachers -- about 46 percentage points.

"It's an exciting time," Meidel said. "It's a lot of change. I think we can be very successful in trying to find multitalented individuals in a lot of different levels ... help hire people that look like what our district is. Match the students, that's the goal."

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