O’meara’s Return and Retirement

By Emlen Janetos

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Michael “Mick” O’Meara, a highly regarded teacher at Tamalpais High School, shocked many of his students when he announced his plans to retire at the end of school last year. After dedicating forty-two years to his profession, the thought of him no longer teaching saddened many students. O’Meara cited multiple reasons for his decision. “One [of the reasons] was my older brother, who was sixty nine, passed away,” O’Meara said. His second reason was a newfound awareness of his retirement options which pushed him towards the final decision. “I thought I would go one more year, but when I did the numbers financially, it made sense that this was the time to retire,” he said. However, O’Meara wanted to teach at least one more year so he returned to Tam High for the 2017-18 school year, but under specific guidelines and conditions.

When a teacher in the California public school system chooses to retire, that person cannot work in any public school for six months; this includes being a substitute teacher or anything of the sort. However, Mr. O’Meara managed to officially retire, yet still, continue to work the following school year. This is due to a very specific protocol the district went through with the STRS (State Teachers Retirement System: the organization that handles all retired teachers in California). “The school district can request an exemption. They have to show that there’s a need, they have to show that I meet the criteria, they have to show that I’m not getting any incentives to retire, and they have to do it in an open hearing,” Mr. O’Meara explained. Once the paperwork was complete and the superintendent signed off, they waited to see what the state decided. Mr. O’Meara was granted the exemption, allowing him to return to teaching part-time.  

It is clear the general consensus on his return is positive. “I think he was a great teacher, and I think [the] majority of his students think he’s a great teacher,” senior Natalie Durham, who had O’Meara for two years, said. She also attributed her high opinion of O’Meara’s teaching to his extensive experience. “He’s seen everything at this point, he knows how to work through all the problems,” Durham said. During his forty-two years of teaching, he has taught remedial math, physiology, life science, biology, and all levels of chemistry, and has instructed roughly 6,000 students. “I’ve liked [his] chemistry courses so much that I’ve debated studying it in college, and possibly majoring in it,” Durham said, summarizing Michael O’Meara’s impact at Tam.