Lisbon superintendent Thompson to retire

LISBON – The Don Thompson era in the Lisbon school district is coming to a close.

The longtime school superintendent submitted his retirement notice, effective June 30, at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. Thompson has served as superintendent since August 2003.

“It’s time for a change, for both me and the district,” he said. “While the board might not feel that way, I do.”

And the board did not feel that way, with the longest-serving members praising the 57-year-old Thompson for his 35 years in education, the last 25 at Lisbon as a teacher and administrator.

“It’s going to be difficult for me to vote yes on this,” said Gene Gallo, a sentiment shared by his colleagues. “It’s been an honor to work with you. You’ve made the district better” in every respect.

Board President Jim Smith said Thompson was appointed during a difficult period in school history, alluding to the resignation of superintendent Charles McShane Jr. for theft in office. “We needed people to step up and you did,” he told Thompson.

Thompson advised the board of his decision in a letter delivered to them prior to the meeting, and the board said they will have plenty of time to comment further on his accomplishments prior to June 30.

His accomplishments were significant, starting with the fact Lisbon is arguably the most financially stable school district in the county. Faced with mostly declining revenue over the past five years and falling enrollment, Lisbon continued to have the largest year-end balance in the county, despite being one of the smaller districts.

Contract negotiations with the teachers union have been marked by cooperation and civility and not the rancor and suspicion seen in other districts, so much so that several years ago they agreed to work 30 minutes longer per day, with the additional time devoted to professional development.

In recent years, Thompson initiated efforts for school districts in the county to begin sharing services when possible as a way to save money, and just two years ago the district achieved its first “excellent” rating, or A grade, on the state report card, which it repeated in 2012. Last year, the district earned its highest score ever on the academic performance index portion of the state report card.

While he has no immediate plans other than to work on his golf game this summer, Thompson intends to find another job. “I’m not done working by any stretch, but I don’t know what that will be,” he said.

Thompson ruled out being a candidate for the Lisbon superintendent position on a retire-rehire basis, and Smith said the board will decide how to proceed on finding a replacement. Smith said they would like to get the new person on board prior to Thompson’s retirement so he can help with the transition.