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FOREST CITY | Four Forest City school district employees are retiring this year, while five more are retiring next year.

Those who will retire at the end of the current school year are:

• Stephen Gerhardt, high school special education teacher and track coach. 

• Diane Quail, elementary special education teacher.

• Melanie Westerberg, elementary teacher.

• Kim Dakken, middle school special education teacher.

Those retiring at the end of the 2018-19 school year are:

• Scott Bertlesen, high school English teacher, speech coach and literary magazine coach. 

• Sheryl Putz, middle school language arts teacher. 

• Jan Rauk, elementary school nurse.

• Kim Mollenhauer, elementary teacher. 

• Sonja Tiedman, elementary teacher.

All except Gerhardt are taking early retirement.

Superintendent Darwin Lehmann said the district has only offered early retirement three or four times over the past 11 years he has been at Forest City. 

Although early retirements mean some much-needed cost savings for the district, Lehmann said it's not something he enjoys.

"You lose wonderful staff with lots of years of experience," he said. 

However, it's the only way the district can balance its budget due to the shrinking amount of state aid, according to Lehmann. 

He said if the district hires someone to replace each person retiring over the next two years, the net savings would still be around $200,000 because new staff wouldn't make as much as long-time employees.

Lehmann said if the district were to cut staff instead, it would mean making tough decisions such as whether to eliminate an elementary teaching position or if programs such as home economics should be cut.

Staff who take early retirement receive $37,500 during their first year of retirement and $30,000 during their second year to be applied to their health insurance.

Lehmann said they can use a lot of that money right away or use it over many years depending on their needs.


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