Barb Thompson tried to resist it. She wouldn’t follow three grandparents and her parents into the teaching field.
But after a field experience in a classroom in college, she gave in and joined the family business.
“I think it’s just in my blood,” Thompson said. She’s spent 33 years teaching, the last 22 at Quail Run School.
Thompson, who teaches sixth grade, is one of 21 teachers who have already announced their retirement in the Lawrence school district this year, the first for a monetary incentive. If teachers announce their retirement before certain dates, they get a bonus.
The 21 teachers that already said they are retiring at the end of the school year will get $500 from the district. While that date was originally in October, it was pushed back to November because of ongoing teacher negotiations. If teachers make the decision to end their career in Lawrence by Jan. 4, they can get $250. The last day to announce a retirement is March 1, if the teacher wants to receive additional benefits from the district on top of their state retirement benefits.
“The earlier we know the people are retiring, the better able we are to plan for the future,” certified human resources division director David Cunningham said. “It helps us determine if we’re in a mode where we can hire ... or if we’re in a mode for where we have to maybe look at making cuts. That was the purpose of the incentive, to entice people to give us that early notice.”
With time left on the retirement clock, the district already has the same number of teachers leaving this year as they did total last year.
With the current budget crunch and more cuts pending for next year, school superintendent Rick Doll is torn over the loss of 21 veteran teachers.
“Regardless of whether we’re in budget cuts or not, losing quality, veteran staff is always painful,” Doll said. “With that said, it gives us some flexibility. (21 positions is) close to a million dollars.”
Board president Scott Morgan said that with so much of the district’s general fund tied up in staff, teacher positions will have to be looked at as an option to save money come next year.
“We’ve got to realize that’s where we will, when we lose money, that’s where we’ll make reductions,” Morgan said. “We have a number of early retirements already announced. That helps absorb a lot of the positions that we might have to get rid of.”
Money is also an issue with Thompson, who wants to continue teaching after retiring from the Lawrence school district.
“I can take my early retirement and go to another district and actually get paid a lot more than I’m getting paid here,” said Thompson, who lives in Overland Park. “Having two kids in college, it was partly a monetary concern.”
The other part influencing Thompson’s decision to retire is simply that education is changing, in ways she likes and in ways she doesn’t.
“All the incredible amounts of testing ... it’s not quite my way of teaching,” Thompson said. “I think there are some really good things that have come with the changes. There’s a lot more active learning now.”
Thompson is also concerned about district-wide budget cuts, which leaders have said may affect class sizes next year.
“I want to go out on a good note and not when I’m getting burned out and tired of it,” Thompson said.
But, she’s also going to miss her time with Quail Run sixth graders.
“There’s never a dull moment in sixth grade and I love that,” Thompson said. “That’s the thing I’ll miss the most.”