Associate Superintendent Jody Thompson and Principal Michael LaMoine, at Kelly Elementary School, are among the 18 Grand Forks Public Schools professional staff members who are taking early retirement at the end of this year.

Their applications were approved unanimously by the Grand Forks School Board at its regular meeting Monday, Jan. 25.

This is the last group of district employees to benefit from the policy, which has been in place for decades; the School Board is rescinding the policy effective at the end of this school year. Grand Forks is the only large school district in the state that has been providing this benefit, according to Scott Berge, the district's business manager.

Thompson has served in various administrative roles for the school district for the past 17 years. He also has served as principal at Carl Ben Eielson Elementary School at Grand Forks Air Force Base and Valley Middle School and was a fourth-grade teacher at Carl Ben Eielson for five years.

Thompson was eligible to retire three years ago, he said in an email, “but wanted to help in the transition of several new district level administrators. With many significant district projects to tackle, I felt now would be a good time to retire and allow a new administrator the opportunity to help manage these projects.

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“It has been a privilege to serve in the Grand Forks Public Schools for my entire 33-year career. I have had the opportunity to work with countless outstanding administrators, teachers, support staff, community partners and board members.”

LaMoine has served as Kelly Elementary School principal since July 2005.

Other school district staff members whose early retirement applications were approved are Debra Arnason, family and consumer sciences teacher, South Middle School; Laurie Chase, physical education teacher, Phoenix Elementary School; Laurie Clemenson, special education teacher, Community High School; Sonia Galegher, science teacher, Red River High School; Lynnette Greicar, online teacher, Century Elementary School; Lila Hervey, second-grade teacher, Kelly Elementary School; Penny Holmen, reading teacher, Century Elementary School; Lisa Hoplin, Head Start teacher; Bernard Houdek, school counselor, Red River High School; Kimberley Keller, math teacher, South Middle School; Lori LaHaise, speech language pathologist, Head Start program; Denise Lofthus, reading teacher, Lake Agassiz Elementary School; Rose Narloch, online teacher, Discovery Elementary School; Pamela Ness, reading teacher, Discovery Elementary School; Penny Tandeski, sixth-grade teacher, Schroeder Middle School; and Mary Winter, fourth-grade teacher, Phoenix Elementary School.

The early retirement policy permits eligible teachers, whose applications are approved, to receive four equal payments, one in each year for four consecutive fiscal years. The policy had been viewed in the past as a cost-saving measure, by replacing higher-paid employees with incoming, lesser-paid employees. Financial challenges have grown more serious in recent years for the district, which is operating with a $5.7 million budget deficit.

To become eligible for early retirement benefits, the staff member must meet requirements in years of full-time, or equivalent years of part-time, employment as a teacher or administrator in the district.

Annual payments to this group of early retirees will total about $306,000.

Earlier, the School Board had decided to rescind the policy at the end of the 2022-23 school year, but more recently acted to discontinue it at the end of this school year.