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Deer Lakes offers longtime teachers an early retirement package

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Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 12:31 a.m.

The Deer Lakes School District is offering an early retirement incentive to teachers, as the district continues to negotiate a new contract with its union.

The school board approved the incentive Tuesday. Teachers would have until Jan. 16 to take it, district Solicitor Raymond Sekula said.

The offer would give teachers who take it up to seven years of health care benefits, Sekula said.

Sekula said district officials are aware of at least two teachers interested in the offer.

To retire under the state system, teachers must have 35 years of service, or 30 years and be age 60, or be 62 years old, Sekula said. He said the teachers known to be interested are “near misses,” having 30 years of service but being shy of age 60.

Early retirements would allow the district to save money by replacing retiring teachers with lower paid new hires, or by not filling the vacancies at all, Business Manager Dennis Thimons said.

Sekula said the incentive is provided for in the teachers' last contract, which expired in June.

Sekula said the district and teachers, members of the Deer Lakes Education Association, are still negotiating and making progress “slowly.”

Talks, which include a state mediator, are expected to resume after a break for Christmas.

“I'm optimistic there will be a settlement,” Sekula said.

Officers chosen

Re-elected board members James McCaskey, Lisa Merlo and Clara Salvi and newly elected member Phillip Ziendarski were sworn into office by District Judge Carolyn Bengel.

McCaskey, previously board vice president, was named president, replacing Merlo. Jodi Banyas-Galecki was named vice president after Merlo declined a nomination for the position.

Recent former Director Michael Coletta was appointed to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of Michael Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh resigned in November, citing work commitments.

Coletta's seat on the board was up for election this year. He said a problem with filing his elections paperwork prevented him from appearing on the ballot for re-election.

He will serve the remaining two years of Cava-naugh's term.

Ziendarski was the only board member to vote against appointing Coletta. Members L. Douglas McCausland and William Lupone Jr. were absent.

Early dismissal set

The board approved an early dismissal for students on Dec. 20.

The middle and high schools will be dismissed at 11 a.m.; Curtisville Primary Center and East Union Intermediate Center will be dismissed at noon.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or

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