Their individual paths have been long, short, rocky and smooth. They have had good memories, trying times, personal triumphs and heart-wrenching moments. Regardless of their individual experiences, 36 Kenai Peninsula Borough School District employees have one thing in common: They all said goodbye to the district this month.
Thirteen teachers, administrators and support staff members tendered their resignations to the school board this spring.
For many of the departing staff members, saying goodbye is hard.
"I'll miss the people on the staff here. I'll miss the kids," said Nikiski Middle-Senior High School assistant principal Don Glaze, who has been at the school since it opened in 1988. "You get grounded after being in a place so long."
After 20 years in Alaska education, Glaze is retiring and moving back to his home state of Idaho. But his school days aren't done yet.
"Being part of a high school is exciting these days," he said. "I've decided to go back to the classroom. I'm going to take my retirement money, but I've got my feelers out for jobs in the classroom."
For Glaze, his retirement was planned. However, others -- 19 teachers and four support staff members -- made a short-notice decision to retire when the district offered a "service recognition program" -- an early retirement option designed to level out staff cutbacks.
"We wanted to keep our experienced people, but lay off fewer new (hires)," said district superintendent Donna Peterson. "We couldn't really do both, so for those already considering retirement, we offered $7,500 to make the choice this year."
The program allowed the district to save more positions in the face of declining enrollment and budget crunches.
"It's not a one-for-one situation," Peterson said.
"If a secondary math teacher took the program, an elementary teacher couldn't just slip in there. They would have to be certified."
But, she said, the program did help.
"It saved that many more jobs," she said.
"I had not intended to retire," said Sears Elementary head secretary Karen Mahurin. "This school is part of my core."
Mahurin has been at Sears for 22 years, and all three of her children attended the school.
Though tears pricked at her eyes when she talked of leaving, Mahurin took the early retirement option because she was upset with budget cuts in the district.
"It just happens," she said.
She plans to move to Salem, Ore., over the summer and get a job with the Salem-Kaiser school district.
"My leaving is really bittersweet," she said. "But I'm excited for the future for me."
Those who also have tendered resignations include Patricia Blacklock, Skyview High School special education teacher; Lisa Chambers, Susan B. English intermediate teacher; Kristin Green, Sears Elementary first- and second-grade teacher; Gweni Hurd, Kenai Central High language arts teacher; Molly Kennedy-Traynor, Sears Elementary occupational therapist; Fiona McKeon, Seward High special education teacher; William Overturf, Kenai Central High assistant principal; Ralph Steeves, Moose Pass principal and teacher; Berry Swenson, Kenai Central High teacher; Alice Tucker, Spring Creek principal and teacher; Tom Weller, Kachemak Selo Title I teacher; and John Wickerson, Seward Elementary fifth-grade teacher.
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