DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Former Dallas ISD teachers, Grace Akbar and Ethel Castaneda celebrated early retirement with a simple dinner at Whole Foods. “It’s just a feeling of delight and utter joy,” said Akbar with a smile.
The two language arts teachers received their final paychecks Monday from the district. Castaneda said she couldn’t be happier. “I had heard from veteran teachers over the years, you’ll know when it’s the right time.”
Nearly 700 fellow teachers, counselors and administrators with Dallas ISD also received their final paychecks. They all opted to leave early as part of an incentive program offered in February to help cut costs in the face of a state budget crisis.
“Every year you say, it can’t get any worse and it does,” said the 65-year-old Akbar. “I feel with the cuts in funding, it’s going to be a very difficult year for teachers.”
Teachers, such as Akbar and Ethel, were paid 15 percent of their salaries, up to $10,000. But now the district could use some of those teachers back to fill 230 positions; about one per school.
“We don’t have an option. We’re going to provide an education for all of these students. We’re going to be ready for them,” said Dallas ISD spokesman, Jon Dahlander.
There is a condition. Dahlander says the teachers must pay back the incentive money before the district will hire them back. “Someone would be absolutely out of their minds to go back under those conditions,” according to Akbar.
Alliance-AFT, which represents a majority of the Dallas ISD teachers, says the incentives were paid in July and many of the teachers have already spent the money. Alliance-AFT President, Rena Honea says teachers would have to come up with thousands of dollars just to return to the classroom.