CONWAY — It wasn’t how the Conway School Board had wanted to recognize the 11 school district employees who will retire at the end of this month, but  each was recognized via Zoom on June 8.

The group represented a combined 174 years of service to the Conway School District.

“We would have loved to have celebrated them in person," said Superintendent Kevin Richard. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, "that isn’t possible right now. We wish them all the best in their much-deserved retirements."

Retiring from the Conway School District are:

• Jeanne Blodget, a paraprofessional at Kennett High School for the past 15 years.

• Linda Burns, a secretary at Kennett Middle School for 25 years.

• W. Denny Cromwell, a Conway School District bus driver for 10 years (who retired Nov. 12).

• Janice DiFiore, a paraprofessional at John H. Fuller Elementary School for the past 24 years.

• Bernie Friberg, a reading specialist at Pine Tree School for the past 27 years.

• Richard Gertz, a custodian at Kennett Middle School for seven years.

• Sandy Hall, an art teacher at Kennett High School for the last 22 years.

• Marianne Lucy, a speech and language assistant at Conway Elementary School for the past 16 years.

• Deborah Riendeau, administrative assistant at Pine Tree School for the last seven years.

• Sally Smith, a fourth-grade teacher at Pine Tree School for 21 years.

• Denis Sullivan, a math teacher at Kennett High School for the last eight years.

School Board Chair Joe Lentini thanked each retiree individually for their service at the start of the meeting.

He added, “Thank you to all them for all their hard work,” and then he along with other board members and the administrators rose and offered a lengthy standing ovation, a first during the board’s three months of Zoom meetings.

Each retiree will receive a framed plaque that reads:

"Upon your retirement, the Conway School Board presents this certificate and wishes to express its sincere thanks and gratitude for your years of dedicated service. Your wisdom and commitment to excellence have long inspired all of us and will be remembered for many years to come. We wish you very good health, happiness and continued success in your retirement.”

Friberg, Hall and Smith had their requests for early retirement approved last November.

The contract with the Conway Education Association teachers union requires the board to accept three early retirement requests per year, but it can accept more if it chooses.

There is no mandatory age to retire in the district or state.

If approved for early retirement, retiring teachers age 55-58 receive 30 percent of their last salary for a five-year period, and teachers age 59-63 get 25 percent of their last salary annually until age 65, when they take full retirement.

Friberg, 58, has been with the Conway School District since 1993; Smith, 62, since 1999; and Hall, 63, since 1998.

“I have loved being part of the SAU 9 community; first as a classroom teacher at Conway Elementary and then as a member of the staff here at Pine Tree,” Friberg wrote in a Nov. 1 letter to the board. “I am very happy that I spent the last 28 years working with teachers and colleagues in this district who have shared their support and friendship.”

Smith submitted her request to Richard on Sept. 3.

“I have loved being part of the Pine Tree community; first as a parent and then as a member of the staff,” she wrote. “I am very happy that I spent the last 22 years working with teachers and colleagues who have given their support and friendship through the years.”

Hall submitted her request Nov. 13, writing, “Please accept this letter as my official request for early retirement to become effective at the conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year. I appreciate your consideration, and I looked forward to notification that the Conway School Board has accepted my request.”

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