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8 Hewlett-Woodmere Staff Take Retirement Deal

District says incentive program helps it with long-term planning.

Four out of five principals, along with four others, in the will step down from their positions in June of this year or next after accepting a retirement incentive from the district.

The administrators and supervisors who chose to retire will receive a one-time payment of 40 percent of their annual salaries (see salary amounts here), according to a document obtained by Patch from the district under a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. The staff members offered the incentive were all nearing retirement age, according to the district. School administrators said the program will help the district plan for the future.

“Advance knowledge of pending retirements provides a school district with the opportunity to carefully evaluate current staffing and plan how best to fill vacancies,” said Dr. Peter Weber, assistant superintendent of business. “Simply put, incentives of this type provide the luxury of time, enabling better outcomes down the road.”

Like every school district, Hewlett-Woodmere will face many economic challenges soon with the 2 percent cap on the tax levy and costly state mandates.

“Advanced knowledge of their plans will provide the district with increased time to conduct a thorough search for exceptional instructional leaders to fill positions and to review the administrative structure of the district,” Superintendent Dr. Joyce Bisso wrote in a letter on the district’s website. “In addition, it will ensure a smooth transition with the assistance of current administrators. There will be financial savings for the district as well.”

The staff members who will retire on June 30 are Principal Joan Birringer-Haig; Eileen Mahoney, assistant principal of ; and Ellen Feldman, ’s social worker.

In June of 2013, those who will retire are Jessica Bayer, district chairperson of art and technology; Principal Rick Berkowitz; Principal Bonnie Epstein; Hewlett Elementary School Principal Sandra Pensak; and Estelle Shafran, assistant principal of Franklin Early Childhood Center.

“Their leadership and service have had a profound impact on children, families, and staff over their years in HWPS,” Bisso wrote. “Each retiree is a valuable member of our learning community and remains completely committed in his/her position until midnight on the last day of service.”

Birringer-Haig said that two of her lifetime goals were to complete a doctorate degree and teach at the university level. She will write her dissertation next school year.

“When the incentive was offered, it did make me stop and evaluate how retiring from being the principal would help me to achieve my goal of getting my doctorate and then teaching at the university level,” she said. “Being a principal is a lot of hard work, as is writing a dissertation. I know myself and would only be happy if I could do both jobs well, which would be quite difficult to achieve.”

The Ogden principal said she cares deeply about the Hewlett-Woodmere community and has learned from working with its staff.

“I will truly miss the children, the staff members, the parents and the district administrators,” Birringer-Haig said. “Rather than say goodbye, I prefer to say ‘I’ll see you again.’”

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