51 SOCCCD faculty say goodbye thanks to golden handshake

FAREWELL (Oliver Yu)

MaryAnne Curry Shults

The South Orange County Community College board of trustees adopted a resolution last week of a supplementary retirement incentive program.

A total of 51 full-time eligible faculty at Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College have opted to take part and will officially retire at the end of the 2010-2011 academic year according to Vice Chancellor of Human Services David Bugay. Also, those faculty members were offered the option to teach on a part-time basis after their retirement.

Bob Ferguson has taught various psychology courses for over four decades. He came into the teaching profession with a background as an agent in the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and students were entertained with his anecdotal, real-life tales that made his curriculum come to life. He said teaching was never boring.

“The retirement incentive definitely had an impact on my motivation to retire. However, another event occurred last semester which was even more of a wake up call,” Ferguson said. ” I have had children of former students in my classes for years but I had a grandchild of a former student in my class last semester for the first time. It is time to hang it up when that starts.”

Ferguson confirmed he will return as a part-time instructor in the fall.

Public Agency Retirement Services (PARS) has made available to the district a supplementary retirement plan, supplementing the State Teachers’ Retirement System / Public Employees’ Retirement System (STRS/PERS) program. The plan will provide a portion of one year’s salary over five years.

“This [plan] provides financial saving to the district of $3.6 million over five years,” Bugay said. ” The positions will not be replaced for one year and will be filled by adjunct instructors.”

During the 2011-2012 year, the colleges will conduct a hiring process to fill the vacant full-time positions. Those hired will begin with the 2012-2013 academic year.

Lewis Long, president of the SOCCCD Faculty Association said there are two sources of savings for the district.

“First, for the first year, classes will be taught by part-time faculty with lower pay and without the same benefits,” Long said. “Second, the faculty who will be hired eventually to replace the relatively highly paid retirees will come in with much lower salaries.”

The retirement incentive plan was conceived and proposed by the Faculty Association as part of a restructuring of the faculty salary schedule, Long said. Plus, it will make the district more attractive to new faculty and “continue to attract the best, most qualified” instructors, he added.

There will be no reduction in the numbers of class sections, or growth in class sizes, as a result of this process. However, because of the dismal condition of the state budget and the resulting reduction in growth allowed to the colleges, there may be fewer class offerings for other reasons, Long said.

Students will benefit from having fresh, enthusiastic new faculty members who have the advantage of recent education in the newest developments in their fields.

“While the retiring faculty members are experienced, dedicated teachers, we can all benefit from fresh perspectives and knowledge of the newest developments,” Long said. “Also, because of the condition of the state budget, there are a lot of excellent teachers looking for jobs, so we should have a very deep pool from which to select new faculty.”

Those who teach look for the best in their students, and communicate clearly that each one has untold potential, and this confidence can inspire their students to grow and develop more than they ever thought possible, according to Keirsey.com. In whatever field they choose, teachers consider people their highest priority, and they instinctively communicate personal concern and a willingness to become involved.

Kathleen Smith instructs those for whom English is not their native language. The English as a Second Language courses run the gauntlet from those who only want to improve their English fluency to curriculum for the transfer student.

“If I have contributed to the well-being and forward progress of those students, I count my time here an enormous success,” Smith said. “They have taught me as much about the world as I have taught them about English. It is really with a sense of sadness that I leave Saddleback.”

Smith has been teaching ESL students from “every country in the world” at Saddleback for 30 years. She said that sometimes she comes to work feeling tired or depressed, but by the end of her teaching day, she leaves “with an abundance of energy and good cheer just by interacting with my classes of interesting and enthusiastic ESL students.” She said her students have all been “eager, hardworking and determined.”

Ferguson too have a special fondness for his students and it’s the contentment from teaching and seeing the achievements that they’d made.

“We all struggle with self-fulfilling prophecies that hinder us from achieving our maximum potential. My teaching goal at Saddleback was to motivate students to achieve beyond their individual expectations,” Ferguson said. “Also, I don’t believe that you have had a complete day unless you have helped someone in need who is not in a position to give you something in return. I have always tried to fulfill that philosophy with my students.”

As a parting remembrance, Ferguson has established the Robert W. Ferguson scholarship fund to help needy students.

Smith said she plans to travel, remodel a home in Sonoma County, continue my work for a small school in Africa, “and, of course, teach here, part time.”

To see a list of those in the early retirement incentive program, click here.

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