Why Are You Still Here?

Mike Lawson • February 2011 • February 16, 2011

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Can you believe that there are high school band directors who are still teaching band long after they have retired? In fact, most of those who continue on are still teaching the very school bands from which they retired. How and why would they do this? Classroom teachers might find this surprising, even unheard of, but for music educators, it so happens that this is a fairly regular occurrence. Could it really be possible that some educators love what they are doing?

There is a phenomenon in public education that has been around a long time, but is now growing dramatically in many states: music educators, especially high school music teachers, are not fully retiring from the positions they have held for so many years. Instead, you might call it entering “semi-retirement.” The idea is not new, but it is growing in popularity. In my state of California, there are many high school band directors all over the state who are continuing to teach band well beyond retirement. This may turn out to be the one of the few ways school districts feel they can hold on to their elective programs until the financial crises is over. Or it could be they really just don’t want to let go of good teachers who are making a difference in the lives of kids.

The process is quite simple. When a teacher reaches retirement age, he or she approaches the school district to see if retirement is a possibility. At the same time, that director requests to continue part-time and hold on to classes and/or programs he or she loves, still has a unique passion for, and has worked so hard to build over time. In most states, school districts can allow these teachers to work around 1/3 time and still make between $30,000 and $35,000 per year without penalty. This is not an automatic process, because the school district must first want these teachers back, but it does enable school districts to hold on to important educators and the programs they don’t want to lose at a far lower cost.

Some school districts are now offering Early Retirement Incentives. Teachers at the top of the pay scale can be offered an ERI and the school districts can hire a new teacher at half the price. However, because many school programs are so complex

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