DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Clutching numbers like winning lottery tickets, hundreds of employees with the Dallas Independent School District openly celebrated their approaching retirement on Saturday. “I’m excited, I really am,” Kay Harris said. She has taught reading with the district for the past 33 years. “I’m just bubbling over.”
On Thursday, the district approved a resignation incentive that would give teachers who file for retirement 15 percent of their salaries, up to $10,000. The district is bracing for a deep shortfall – estimates soar near $250 million – when the state passes its budget for the next two fiscal years.
Several hundred DISD employees camped out overnight to make sure that they were in line to receive the resignation bonuses before the designated cash was gone. Many of those district employees said that they were already considering retirement. When the district offered the bonus, it just made their decision much easier. “They throw the carrot at you and so they sort of got me thinking,” said teacher John McCollum.
School administrators opened the auditorium of the district’s headquarters to get people out of the cold. By the end of the day, about 500 teachers had signed up for retirement. “I got here at 12 o’clock last night, and when I got here, my number was 116,” said school counselor Joyce Brookins.
Claudia Rodriguez, the district’s head of human resources, said that each person who agrees to leave their job voluntarily represents one employee “that we don’t have to physically lay off.” Prior to the incentive, the district was looking to let go of about 4,000 employees.
“I’m done,” Harris said. “It’s official. It’s official.”
The resignation bonuses will continue to be offered to DISD employees until March 8, or until the $7 million set aside for the program is gone.