Still "Doin' It" after all these years (breathing)
Seven years after taking an early retirement from Muskogee Public Schools, Linda Turney remains in the classroom.
“I love children; I love to see them learning,” she says while helping her second-graders at St. Joseph Catholic School. “I still feel I can be present for them and give them a desire to learn.”
Turney is one of six former Muskogee Public Schools teachers who are continuing their educational careers at St. Joseph. Other MPS teachers who have taken early retirement found second careers at other school districts, faith-based institutions, even schools out of state.
This year, as Muskogee Public Schools faces budget cutbacks as deep as 10 percent, 24 more veteran teachers are taking early retirement under a voluntary separation plan. The plan, approved earlier this school year, offers retiring teachers an additional $400 a month for 48 months if they told the district of their retirement plans before Dec. 18. Teachers would get a total of $19,200 over four years. The retired teachers also must volunteer to help at a school within the district for five days a year for five years.
In addition to the 24 teachers, Muskogee High School Principal Gary Bivin, Indian Education Director Maxine Glory, and science curriculum coordinator Cheryll Hallum are taking early retirement.
Past budget crunches prompted Muskogee school officials to offer voluntary separation plans at least three times in the past 15 years.
MPS Human Resources Officer Martha Gore said all previous early retirement plans included a clause to help at a MPS school for five days a year during the course of their buyout. She said even teachers who moved out of state managed to find time to help at a Muskogee school.
An early retirement plan in 2005 offered experienced teachers $7,200 extra per year over five years, resulting in a total of $36,000 more in retirement over five years. At least 24 educators took advantage of that plan.
That was the year Edwynna Brown decided to retire from her administrative duties for the district. She had just completed one year as assistant principal of Ben Franklin Science Academy and was an assistant principal at West Middle School and the 7th and 8th Grade Center before that.
“I had been teaching since I was 20 and was planning to retire at 50 to do other things,” Brown said.
Upon retiring in 2006, Brown worked at God’s Desire Learning Center at Greater Shiloh Baptist Church.
“I decided I could teach the whole child,” Brown said. “And it has been a very profitable time for me. By working at the learning center, we could help children from cradle to college.”
She said that in the past four years, center enrollment has risen from 45 to 122 kids.
Science teacher Linda Milton also took early retirement that year. She said she needed to take care of her mother.
Within two years, she returned to the classroom, teaching biology part time at Hilldale High School. She began working full time at Hilldale in August.