Hiring a retiree to substitute in a vacant position

by April Mabry

Q: Can we hire a TRS retiree as a substitute to fill a vacant position?

A: Yes, an individual receiving benefits from the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) may serve as a substitute in a vacant position for a limited period of time. Any employment that exceeds the limits explained below would be subject to the monthly surcharge and may impact the individual’s monthly annuity.

TRS defines a substitute as a person who serves on a temporary basis in place of a current employee who is paid no more than the daily rate of pay set by the employer. Effective September 1, 2016, the definition of substitute applicable to TRS retirees was expanded, allowing a retiree to serve in a vacant position—other than the one the person retired from—for as many as 20 days and still be considered a substitute.

A retiree may serve as a substitute in more than one vacant position each school year provided the retiree serves no more than 20 days in each vacant position. The only restriction is that a retiree may not serve in the position the retiree vacated at retirement. This means that the retiree is restricted from subbing in a position that is vacant because of that individual’s retirement.*

In addition, a retiree may work as a substitute and in a half-time position during the same month, as long as the total number of days worked in the combined positions for any given month does not exceed four clock hours for each workday in the calendar month. The total number of hours for a given month may be worked in any arrangement or schedule. For example, four hours each day or full time for half the number of workdays in the month.

As long as the conditions above are met, the retiree will not forfeit annuity payments and the district will not be subject to the monthly surcharge. Additional information on substituting in a vacancy is available on the TRS website.

Other considerations when hiring a retiree to substitute includes the following:

  • A retiree must have one full, calendar-month break in service before returning to work in a district. Work as a substitute during the month following retirement is work that would revoke retirement.
  • A retiree may work as a substitute for an unlimited number of days during a month as long as he or she is filling in for a current employee.

Additional information on Employment of Retired Personnel is available in the HR Library and in the TRS publication Employment after Retirement.

Editor’s Note: This sentence was added to reflect the definition of substitute in 19 TAC 31.1(b).

Reducing calendar days for staff—what do districts have to do?

by Luz Cadena

House Bill (HB) 2610 passed by the 84th Texas Legislature changed the Texas Education Code (TEC) by altering instructional requirements from days of instruction to minutes, providing districts greater scheduling flexibility.

Additionally, House Bill (HB) 1842, known for authorizing Districts of Innovation, provides districts more latitude to further modify duty calendars and hours to support instructional program needs.  

As school districts seek more local control over the instructional calendar and look to reduce calendar days, they should work closely with their school attorney in drafting and implementing these changes and consider the implication to employees.

Contract Employees

For educators, TEC currently requires all 10-month educator contracts to be a minimum of 187 days of service. Therefore, a teacher salary cannot be less than 187 days.

The salary of a non-certified professional under a non-Chapter 21 contract may be reduced between contract years or in accordance with the terms of the contract. For certified administrators under a Chapter 21 contract, the district may reduce pay between contract years by providing formal and specific notice before the penalty-free resignation date.

Non-Contract Employees

For at-will and non-certified positions, a district may reduce calendar days and subsequent pay of employees. Pay for nonexempt employees, may be reduced at any time as long as the district complies with the Fair Labor Standards Act, and pays at least the minimum wage of $7.25/hour and overtime for any time worked more than 40 hours per week.

Depending on the circumstance for reducing calendar days, some districts maintain the annualized salary ensuring employee pay is not reduced. Note that this approach may lead to inflated daily or hourly rates of pay for employees when pay is compared to peer districts.

Benefits

The district should review Policy DED (LOCAL)—Compensation and Benefits: Vacations and Holidays to determine if the reduction of days may cause some employees to lose eligibility for vacation and paid holidays. If this happens, districts can choose to change the eligibility criteria, pay off accrued leave, or set deadlines for using previously accrued leave. This is a great opportunity for the district to consult with their policy consultant to ensure local policy is current.

Lastly, don’t overlook the importance of communicating these changes to employees in a timely manner and in compliance with local policy and other regulations. 

 

4 key factors impacting teacher retention

by Zach DiSchiano
 
Teacher turnover rates in the United States are highest in the South, and Texas is unfortunately not immune to the epidemic.
 
For HR administrators in Texas, it’s important to understand what’s behind the high turnover rates so you can better prevent teachers from leaving your district, or leaving the profession entirely.
 
A recent Learning Policy Institute (LPI) report released in August found 90 percent of vacant teaching positions are created by teachers leaving the profession—two-thirds of whom leave for reasons other than retirement. Research shows high turnover rates, in addition to causing headaches for district HR administrators, negatively impact student achievement.
 
It seems simple: to overcome the teaching shortage, just reduce teacher attrition. Of course it’s a bit more complex than that, but teacher turnover is a major contributor to the shortage and, consequently, limiting turnover is the most effective way to keep districts fully staffed.
 
There are four key factors impacting teacher retention:

1. Compensation

The first and most obvious factor in retaining quality educators is pay. Providing compensation packages competitive with those of neighboring districts as well as other occupations requiring similar levels of education allows for all schools to have a good shot at keeping their best teachers. Additionally, student loan forgiveness programs are a highly-sought benefit as tuition costs continue to rise.

2. Teacher preparation

The LPI report found those who entered the profession through an alternative certification program were 25 percent more likely to leave their schools than full-time teachers who entered the profession through a traditional certification program. While districts may prefer to hire teachers from a traditional teacher preparation program over an alternatively certified teacher, they’re not always afforded the luxury to choose. It’s also no surprise to see teachers who may feel unprepared or unqualified at a higher risk of leaving the field.

3. Administrative support

Of all contributors to teacher turnover, lack of administrative support may be the strongest. The LPI report stated teachers who strongly disagree that their administration is supportive are more than twice as likely to leave their school or the teaching profession as teachers who strongly agree their administration is supportive. The value of a high-quality principal can’t be understated. Teachers want to feel like the administrative staff is providing them with tools to be successful. Communicating with your teachers and understanding their needs will make them feel heard and less likely to leave your district.

4. Working conditions

The report also identified several factors that make up working conditions, and many of them directly impact teacher turnover. Some of the factors include (bolded items indicate a stronger relationship to teacher turnover):
 
  • Collegial relationships
  • Instructional leadership
  • School culture
  • Decision-making power
  • Facilities
  • Parental involvement
  • Professional development
  • Teaching resources
  • Time for collaboration and planning
 
Many of these probably look familiar, and there’s more and more attention being paid to improving things like school culture. At any rate, it’s important to see the specific qualities teachers are seeking in a workplace and adjust what you can accordingly. Like any industry, collegial relationships are paramount to employee satisfaction, and in this case, it ties in with school culture and instructional leadership. It’s all about having the right personnel.
 
If you want to dive into the research a bit more, check out the full report

HR Extras

Nationwide survey reveals projected salary budget growth in 2018

Base salaries for U.S. employees are expected to rise 3.1 percent in 2018, slightly above actual 2017 levels, according to an annual WorldatWork survey.

State salary budget increases for 2017 showed little variance from 2016. Increases ranged from 2.9 percent to 3.1 percent, with the median at 3 percent. In urban areas, increases ranged from 3 percent to 3.3 percent.
Survey respondents are awarding general salary increases to 89 percent of employees in 2017. The percentage of organizations using variable pay increased for the third consecutive year by one percentage point, up to 85 percent in 2017.

According to a WorldatWork news release, the plateau in growth may be attributed to the increase of variable pay or non-cash based rewards. Governmental regulations also may have made an impact on salary growth. However, despite the overtime rule getting blocked, many organizations had already implemented the changes and chose to keep them in place.

For more information on the survey, visit the WorldatWork website

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