With the Common Core education overhaul looming, La Cañada Unified School District wants room for fresh teachers.

The district is testing out an early retirement incentive this month through the state's Public Agency Retirement Services that would encourage some teachers to retire a few years early. To be in the black, at least 16 eligible employees must opt in to the program.

"(The incentive) offers some savings to the district, and also allows our teachers to elect not to go down a whole new road in their career via Common Core technology," Supt. Wendy Sinnette said. "It is a way of acknowledging them for service and allowing them to depart with the benefit."

The program, which will be tossed if less than 16 teachers opt in, comes just three years after a similar program was offered by the district in 2011. Sinnette declined to give specifics, however, about the benefit, which is still being negotiated with the La Cañada Teachers' Assn.

After PARS individually counsels eligible teachers, the potential retirees will have until May 30 to decide whether to retire.

La Cañada High School math teacher Mike Upton, 58, has already decided to retire after 18 years teaching math even before hearing about the incentive.

Upton said the implementation of new state standards helped him make his decision.

"(The Common Core) wasn't my reason for retiring but it definitely expedited the process," Upton said. Upton had originally planned on retiring at age 60 in order to devote more time to his church and running.

"I just thought, do I really want to invest myself in learning a completely new teaching process over the next few years, only to leave after all that?"

The district is pressed to approve the incentive by June in order to fill the retirees' positions for the 2014-2015 school year.

At a May 6 school board meeting, audience members expressed concern about getting the best teachers in the candidate pool.

"When it's time to put in offers, all good ones have already accepted somewhere else," parent Mary White said. "It really matters when we put the offers out, which teachers we get in the classroom."

Although the vacant positions cannot be guaranteed until next month, Patricia Hager, assistant superintendent for human resources, assured that the district has already begun the interview process and reference checks to fill the positions.

"We're going through the preliminary processes so that we're ready to sign the contracts if these announcements are made," Hager said. "We're being as proactive as we can be."

--

NATALIE WHEELER is a freelance writer.

ALSO:

Streets closing for Amgen Tour race

Rules stump tree fans in La Cañada Flintridge

La Cañada history: Four crowned 1984 Rio Hondo League track champions