To any teachers who have renewed their contracts, make sure your severance pay was deposited. I learned recently that mine wasn't because I didn't apply for it. In the past it was automatic, although we did have to get on our handlers to see it through, but now you have to apply for it. I am eligible to receive this past year's pension, together with this year's sum, next August when my contract expires. I missed the deadline for this year, so I have to wait.
This came about under kind of strange circumstances. About two weeks ago I was told that the school board needed to know ASAP whether I'd be renewing my contract again in August, 2009, because it had to budget for my severance payment for the 2009-2010 year. As you can guess I hate being told to rush things like this so far in advance, considering that nobody tells me anything around here until the very last minute. Moreover, spending another year in a foreign country is a big decision, one that really can't be rushed ten months in advance. A lot could change in a year, and you never know when coworkers might try to have you fired again. *cough* Actually, I did tell them of my plans to sign a six-month extension through February or March, 2010, but was told it would be impossible, so it was refreshing to see the aversion to flexibility and long-term planning still reveal itself.
Anyway, as always happens with commands preceded with "Brian you must do this now," literally five minutes later it changed, and I was told that, nevermind, I don't have to make a commitment now because the school board pays severance every year. Hence, no reason to budget anything above and beyond, since they could carry over my severance from 2007-08. My coteacher asked if I had been paid severance last year, because the secretary couldn't remember. I checked and no, I hadn't been paid. The money will be carried over next year, at which time I'll get two years' worth.
When I followed up on this I was told that the secretary thought I'd prefer to have it altogether, since apparently---and this doesn't make sense---the year-end bonus is calculated based on your salary for that year, but if you receive two years' worth together, you get two years of the higher salary. Civil servants' pay goes up every year, she said, and it was with a bit of a grin that I reminded her that's not the case for English monkeys, and that I earn the same I did last year. Anyway, I don't think it was anything fishy, although when it comes to a big sum of my money, I don't like people making decisions about it for me. I also didn't like how the school had to get the last word in, by telling me it was my fault for not checking to see whether I needed to apply or not. Granted, you never know when new regulations pop up, so it's always a good idea to plan for every possibility, but a simple "sorry, I should have told you about this rather than keeping your money" would have been preferable to blaming me. Because of the fishiness that does come with the territory, it's certainly possible for an oversight to happen with this next year, so double check to see what's up.
Public schools are generally considered more reliable than private hagwon, but you'll hear plenty of stories of shadiness and corruption, and teachers usually have to keep a close eye on their finances when the end of the contract rolls around. Practically everyone I know has extended their visa for a few days after their contract finished just to make sure their final paycheck and their severance pay was deposited. And in many cases, they weren't. When I arrived in Suncheon I had to put myself up in a motel for a week because the previous teacher was still here, fighting for his last paycheck. I've written before how my schools in Gangjin got out of paying me my due overtime, and how I worked a three-week winter camp without getting paid because "it was my duty." I also mentioned how somebody over there was pocketing the money that should have gone toward paying rent. And every month my handlers and my bosses would fudge the paperwork in order to make it look like I was teaching more classes than I really was. This was in order to ensure that they still got a bonus for employing a white person, and so they altered the paperwork to make it look like I was teaching 18 hours a week instead of the actual 9. I never saw any of that money, of course, because that went to the "English department." I do know that whenI requested materials for said winter camp I was denied. The thing about public schools is they always have money; when you're not getting paid, somebody else is.
Anyway, the moral of the story is keep an eye on your bank book.