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The student news site of Beachwood High School.

The Beachcomber

The student news site of Beachwood High School.

The Beachcomber

Board Extends New Contracts to District Leaders; Goals Set for Next Two Years

After the preschool moves to Bryden, Hardis and Walsh see the Fairmount building as a space to be shared with the community.
Beachcomber archives
After the preschool moves to Bryden, Hardis and Walsh see the Fairmount building as a space to be shared with the community.

At their Feb. 25 meeting, the Beachwood Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution stating their intent to rehire Beachwood City Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard Markwardt to his current position on July 2 after he retires on June 30.

Markwardt’s retire-rehire contract, which ends in 2015, also includes a salary raise of $9,000 for this year, retroactive to Aug. 1. After his retirement, Markwardt will receive his pension from the State Teachers Retirement System in addition to a new salary from the district, which is yet to be determined.

Beachwood City Schools Treasurer Michele Mills was also given a five-year contract extension, effective Aug. 2014 through July 2019. In addition to her $122,000 salary, Mills was given a longevity stipend, which is an additional payment of $500 for every year Mills has been with the district. She will be with the district for 25 years next school year.

Retirement Rules Changing

Markwardt is retiring in June due to changes in State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) retirement rules.

“[The] proposal… was put to me by the Board because they knew of all the changes that are pending from STRS,” Markwardt said.

Markwardt said the Board took the new retirement rules into consideration, in addition to Markwardt, 58, being of the age where he would be able to retire if he chose to.

Board President Dr. Brian Weiss explained the Board’s reason for offering the retire-rehire contract.

“We’ve been nothing but happy with Dr. Markwardt… during his whole tenure here, and the last thing [we wanted] to do is lose him at this point,” Weiss said.

“[The Board] offered me something that, quite frankly, they’ve never offered to an administrator before, and that was the chance to retire and then to be rehired by the Board in my current position,” Markwardt said.

The retirement rule change that Markwardt said would impact him most will be the reduction of his cost of living allowance, or COLA.

“[The COLA is] a two percent raise in a person’s pension over the next several years… I would have lost four years of that had I postponed my retirement,” Markwardt said.

According to Markwardt, another set of changes to the STRS are scheduled for 2015, when his new contract ends.

Markwardt explained the longer a teacher or administrator works, the higher the percentage of earnings go into their pension payments.

This year, Markwardt will be retiring with roughly 32 years of service in education.

On average, the STRS sees about 6,000 teachers and administrators retire every year in Ohio, according to Nick Treneff, Director of Communication Services for the STRS.

According to Markwardt, the retirement rule changes are likely to increase the number of teacher and administrator retirees in 2013 and 2015. According to Treneff, fluctuations in the economy also influence the number of retirees.

Other Retire-Rehire Contracts in the District

According to Markwardt, three other district staff members are either currently under a retire-rehire contract, or have applied for one.

Math teacher Carole Katz, who has taught in the district for nearly four decades, applied for retire-rehire last year. Katz was brought back on as a part-time teacher and part-time consultant for the district.

Guidance counselor Marcia Alperin and English teacher Peter Harvan have applied for retire-rehire and are expected to be rehired to their current positions for the next school year, after retiring.

“[Alperin and Harvan] have not yet been rehired, nor have I, by the Board, because there’s an obligatory time period… where once the Board announces its intention to rehire someone [who has retired], they have to wait a certain number of days and there has to be a public hearing.

Markwardt wants to assure students and parents that those under retire-rehire contracts in Beachwood are expected to work just as hard as they had prior to beginning their new contract.

“It will never be the case [to not work as hard as normal], I don’t think, with anybody that I would recommend as a retire-rehire,” Markwardt said.

The Benefits of a Retire-Rehire

“[Retire-rehire is] something that, honestly, is better for me, and it’s something that’s better for the district in terms of a cost-savings,” Markwardt said.

Generally, the district pays teachers and administrators with retire-rehire contracts less than they earned before retirement.

“It [is] a good opportunity for everyone… the district, the community and for Dr. Markwardt,” said Weiss, who has been on the Board for nine years.

“We as a district, we as a board, never do something like this strictly for savings for the district,” said Weiss, continuing that the Board offered Markwardt a retire-rehire contract because they feel he is best for the district.

“He’s done a great job for this district. The Board has been extremely, extremely happy [with him],” Weiss said, continuing that the Board considers Markwardt to be one of the top superintendents in the state.

“When we have the best, we like to keep the best,” he said.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Markwardt has chosen to part ways from the district after his new contract ends in 2015.

“[2015] is my [desired] departure date. I will have been here eleven years in 2015, which is the longest I’ve ever worked any place in my life… at that point and time, I’ll be ready for something different.”

Reflecting upon his role thus far with the district, Markwardt said that his greatest accomplishments as superintendent are some of the principals and teachers he has hired.

Markwardt also admitted to making some mistakes over the past nine years as superintendent.

For instance, he regrets the lack of communication when the district was considering shutting down the Deaf/Hard of Hearing program earlier this school year.

“I feel like I handled the communication poorly,” he said.

“The good thing is, I think I’ve made fewer mistakes than I’ve made good decisions.”

What’s Next For the District?

Over the next two years, Markwardt has several goals for the district.

One goal consists of getting the district to exceed the state’s academic expectations.

“Although we have one of the highest performance indices in the state, we never seem to get the kids to exceed beyond the targeted goals the state establishes.”

Markwardt also hopes to look at the district facilities’ needs.

“I’d like to take a look at [Bryden and Hilltop], and come up with a plan for addressing some of the needs… I also think we need to look at a few more projects that will require upgrades at the high school, [including the athletic facilities, auditorium and pool].”

Markwardt also has plans for the academic curriculum.

“We’re working on some initiatives right now that, if they come to fruition, are going to be tremendously exciting initiatives in the areas of math and science education,” he said.

The Financial State of the District

Mills agreed that there are some benefits for the district in retire-rehire contracts.

“We hire them [back] at a much lower salary… they give up all their years of service [and seniority] as far as their tenure here,” Mills said. “They become like a brand new employee.”

“It’s a risk for them but it also benefits them because they’re collecting their pension [at the same time]… and can still contribute on [the] levels that they want to before they retire and go on to something else,” Mills said.

As far as the newly-added longevity stipend to Mills’ contract, Weiss believes it is well deserved.

“She’s done [her work] quietly, but she sure does it well,” said Weiss. “Michele Mills has saved this district literally millions of dollars.”

Mills says that the district’s finances are in good shape.

“We’re in very good financial health. We’ve worked very hard to get there and we’re working very hard to remain there,” she said. “We do our best to stay off the ballot and manage our resources wisely.”

However, Mills said the future of the district’s finances is anyone’s guess.

“We’re dependent on property taxes [and changes made by the state legislature],” Mills said.  “At any stroke of the governor’s pen, all of our budget can change overnight.”

However, Mills acknowledged that Beachwood has been more fortunate than other districts in the region, and she doesn’t want staff and students to forget that.

“I fear for a lot of school districts… we’re a really, really fortunate school district and none of us can lose sight of that.”

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About the Contributor
Grant Gravagna
Grant Gravagna, Editor-in-Chief
Grant Gravagna has been active on The Beachcomber staff for four years. As Editor-in-Chief, he oversees a staff of reporters, photographers and cartoonists. He spends his days studying the current political climate, geeking out over vintage 12-cylinder Ferraris and wishing he were more like Josh Lyman.  

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