Teachers' Retirement System Opens Call Center

MARCH 2001 -
Alternative Retirement Incentive Creates Demand - Members of the Teachers' Retirement System, who have recently called
the retirement board and felt they spoke with a familiar voice on the
other end of the phone, probably did just that. Beginning last
December, the Teachers' Retirement Board began a pilot program, by
which retired teachers have been hired to "man" the phones.

As
a result of the new alternative retirement program for teachers
(RetirementPlus), the retirement board found itself swamped with
inquiries from thousands of interested teachers. This volume of calls,
coupled with the normal inquires from active and retired teachers, had
dramatically increased the workload of the full-time professional staff.

"The
volume of calls we have been receiving is very high, averaging
800-1,000 calls per week. As a result, it became necessary to create a
call center to supplement our staff," explains the Teachers' Retirement
Board's Matt Ferron. "With budget constraints, it would have been
impossible to hire fifteen full-time staff people. Tom Lussier (TRB
Executive Director) was not excited about the prospect of hiring temps
to take on such a sensitive job, so he came up with the idea to look
for help amongst our retirees."

Last
fall the TRB advertised in their quarterly news bulletin for retired
teachers to take on part-time positions in the call center. Call center
employees work as customer service representatives for the TRB,
fielding phone calls from retired and active teachers regarding the
pension system. Qualifications included a willingness to work with the
public, good communication skills, and a basic understanding of
computers.

"We are
really pleased with the success we have seen with this program so far.
The retirees are doing a fine job and genuinely care about the work
they are doing," says the TRB's Mike Williams, who oversees the Call
Center. "Although, it is premature to say whether the program will
continue beyond June 30, we will determine that as time goes by."

Retirees 'Man' Phones

After
receiving a number of applications to fill the positions, the TRB hired
13 retired teachers and two private sector retirees to man the phones
in the Boston and Springfield call centers. Currently, there are ten
retirees working in the Boston Call Center and five in Springfield.

With
a schedule ranging from one and 1/2 to three full days per week, Dean
Aldrich, Gerald Cavanaugh, William Kearnan, Paul McCarthy, Bruce Morse,
Donald Nelson, William O'Connor, Joanne Reilly, Shelly Selig, and
Richard Settaducati work in the Boston call center. The Springfield
center is staffed by John Cunningham, Jose Olivo, Ralph Russomando,
Kathleen Sabourin, and Jerome Winegar.

A
common theme amongst the retirees, now working for the TRB, is a sense
that they are not only working, but more importantly giving something
back to the system. Working with other teachers and sharing their
experiences is what these retirees find so appealing about the new
program.

After 38
years of teaching, Bruce Morse retired from the Bedford School system a
year ago. What attracted him to the job was the "thought that I would
be able to help other teachers go through what I had just gone through"
in preparing for their retirement.

"I
was looking for something challenging to do and saw an ad on the TRB
web site that looked interesting. This job is a lot of fun and
certainly is challenging," said retired Duxbury science teacher Don
Nelson. "What is surprising is the large number of teachers who need
assistance. I never would have guessed the volume of calls would have
been so great."

Bill
Kearnan approaches his job with the TRB from a slightly different point
of view. While he is not a teacher, his wife is an active teacher in
the Blackstone Millville Regional School system. Bill's 40 year career
was spent in the private sector, where he retired as a plant manager
for Webster Lens.

"This
is the best part-time job I have ever had," says chemistry teacher
Richard Settaducati, who retired from Old Rochester Regional High
School after 31 years. "I wanted to keep busy and earn some extra
money. This job allows me to do just that, as well as help fellow
teachers."

After
spending the past forty years teaching history, Dean Aldrich wanted to
experience new challenges. "I lived close to the school and never
really faced the challenge of commuting to work," said Aldrich, a
Lincoln/Sudbury retiree who lives in Concord. "This has been a
wonderful experience. From learning something new, to working with the
full-time staff at the Board."

Tags: