TOWNSEND -- When it comes to funding retiree benefits, the North Middlesex Regional School District is in good shape.

In real dollars, the cost for retiree health, dental and life insurance is as high as it will ever be, said Parker Elmore, president and CEO of Odyssey Advisors during the Aug. 11 School Committee meeting.

The district can continue a pay-as-you-go approach to funding these retiree costs.

With fewer teachers retiring each year, and a low to moderate increase in health-care costs, the district is not facing a bubble payment like other districts will.

Forming a trust for retiree benefits would help make things a little more predictable, he said. If a sudden increase in health-care costs occurs, the district could use the trust to cover other post-employment benefits, rather than cutting staff or closing schools.

If the state ever assumes the responsibility for these Other Post Employment Benefits payments, the money in the trust would still belong to the district and could be used for other expenses.

Right now, the cheapest option is to continue the pay-as-you-go approach. Once the trust generates enough interest to pay the retiree costs, the towns will no longer have to fund OPEB costs in the annual budget.

A plan to create a trust to fund OPEB costs in the future could result in a better bond rating, he said. "Give a little now to get a lot later," Elmore said.


If the bond ratings improve, the costs for the funding will be covered by lower borrowing rates, said Will Hackler, at-large committee member. The bond ratings for the three member towns would also increase.

The finance subcommittee will consider the various options, said Chairwoman Sue Roberts.

"Every dollar from the general fund is a dollar away from the kids," she said. "The least to pay is the bottom line that is attractive to me. It takes care of our obligations and it takes care of our kids."

Before making any decisions about a trust, the district should open a discussion with the bond rating people. "Feel them out and see what would make them happy," Elmore said. "Have the conversation before you commit to anything,"

In other business, Superintendent Joan Landers announced the new administrators in the district hired over the summer.

Nancy Milligan will be the new assistant superintendent. She served as director of curriculum in Wakefield since 2008. She guided the implementation and evaluation of curriculum and instructional services from pre-kindergarten to grade 12.

Isaac Taylor will be the interim principal at North Middlesex Regional High School. While earning a second master's degree, in school leadership, at Harvard University, he interned at Boston Latin School in 2013 to this year, where he supervised and evaluated teachers and program directors.

Tara Hanley, who taught at Spaulding Memorial School from 1999 to 2007, is the new principal at Varnum Brook Elementary School. She was the assistant principal at Varnum Brook from 2007 to 2009 and then the principal at Ruggles Lane Elementary School in the Quabbin Regional School District. She is working on a doctorate at Northeastern University.

Jill Jarvis will be assistant principal at Varnum Brook. She has been the education team leader for North Middlesex since 2011. Jarvis holds a master's degree from Assumption College and is in the process of finishing a certificate of advanced graduate studies in school administration at Fitchburg State University.