Vermillion native quickly lands new job after teacher cuts in Yankton

TYNDALL Drew Lawrence could have gotten bitter or discouraged after losing his job with the Yankton School District because of budget cuts.

Instead, he got an offer for a new position within two school days.

Drew Lawrence, one of the Yankton teachers released because of budget cuts, considers himself fortunate to find another job quickly with the Bon Homme school district. He is shown at Riverside Park coaching the Yankton club baseball team. (RANDY DOCKENDORF/P&D)

Lawrence has been hired by the neighboring Bon Homme school district for the 2011-12 school term. He will teach special education for grades K-5 at the Tyndall attendance center.

The Bon Homme school board officially approved Lawrences contract at Monday nights meeting, according to board president Ben Hellmann.

Lawrence currently teaches special education at Yankton Middle School. The second-year instructor received a notice of non-renewal of his contract, one of about two dozen Yankton teachers laid off as a budget-cutting move.

Im fortunate to get another job. Im blessed, he said. I want to emphasize that Im the exception. Im very lucky that I got a job so quickly. None of my colleagues in the same situation have found anything yet.

While not happy about receiving his notice of non-renewal, Lawrence said he doesnt harbor ill feelings toward the Yankton district.

Im not bitter toward the administration. It wasnt easy for them to tell people (who lost their jobs), he said. I wasnt feeling sorry for myself or asking why this happened to me.

Yankton School District patrons are voting May 24 whether to opt out of the state property-tax freeze by $4.1 million annually for 10 years. School officials have said the cut staff positions could be restored if the opt-out passes.

However, Lawrence said he couldnt take a chance and await the election results.

You dont know if the opt-out will pass, he said. Even if it does, its not a done deal that my old job would open back up.

As a special education teacher, Lawrence thought his position might survive the chopping block.

I was hoping the cuts wouldnt occur. But once I received word, I immediately began looking for a job, he said. You cant wait with that kind of stuff.

Lawrence knew that he faced competition for jobs from two sides teachers who were laid off or seeking new employment, and recent graduates looking for their first job.

He desired to remain near Yankton and sought positions in the region.

Im from Vermillion, and I graduated from Mount Marty College. I love this area and want to stay here, he said. Im getting married later this year and need a job. We could move, but some of my colleagues cant look elsewhere. They have families or other ties with the community and school district. They just wait and hope.

Upon receiving the notice of non-renewal, Lawrence applied immediately for jobs in area school districts.

He had previously seen the Bon Homme opening on a teacher placement website. However, he needed to act quickly, as the Bon Homme deadline was the next day.

I got my application in, just before the deadline, he said. I submitted my resume to Bon Homme on Friday, and they had interviews the next Monday.

The Bon Homme district received 12 applications and interviewed six, said Superintendent Bryce Knudson.

I was pleasantly surprised (by) the number of applications we received for this position, he said. Special education HQ (Highly Qualified) teachers are generally difficult to fill.

After completing the interviews, Knudson and elementary principal Mike Duffek selected Lawrence. He will replace a current staff member transferring to the Bon Homme Colony school.

Drew stood out from the others and scored highest on our interview scale, Knudson said. He wants to be an active part of Bon Homme and was excited as he accepted his contract with us.

Lawrence described the job offer as a tremendous weight off his shoulders.

That was one of the best days of my life, he said. The relief was indescribable. I was filled with such excitement. I look forward to being at Bon Homme.

The offer was also good news for his fianc, Sarah Herrboldt, a nurse at Yankton Medical Clinic. She was as excited as I was to get the job, Lawrence said.

Lawrence remains focused on both his current job and new one.

He pledges to remain committed to his work with the Yankton School District, where he teaches in the sixth grade special education resource room.

This is my job, and I have to do my best, he said. Yankton will get 100 percent from me while I am still here.

Lawrence said he also remains loyal to his fellow Yankton teachers.

We talked about it, and no one else (in the general public) knows what we are going through, he said. We formed our own support group.

Bon Homme opted out last year for $400,000 annually for five years, Knudson said.

With the state cut (in the coming fiscal year), we lose about $185,000, he said. We are making do with the opt-out but will be looking at options that least affect students over the next couple of years. Many cuts were previously made with the failure of the first two opt-out attempts in 2001-02.

At Bon Homme, Lawrence will work with about 10 students in K-5 at the Tyndall school. He welcomes the districts four-day week, which alternates a tutoring day and teacher work day on Fridays.

I also like the situation where I will be in one school the entire time and will have the same kids every day, he said.

He welcomes the opportunity to coach in his new position. Besides teaching, he will coach junior high football and assist with varsity football.

He currently coaches the Yankton High School baseball team. He anticipates coaching the Grey Sox baseball team this summer for 15- and 16-year-old players.

Lawrence doesnt foresee needing to make any major adjustments to the Bon Homme district. He student taught at Menno, which gave him experience in a smaller school district. He also doesnt see a major change moving from the middle school level at Yankton to the elementary grades at Bon Homme.

Lawrence and his fianc also see a higher power behind the sudden change in their new life together.

Both of us are Catholic, and we have a strong faith, he said. You always hear that one door closes and another opens, that its Gods will. But you dont fully realize the meaning until it happens to you.

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