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Mike Campbell began looking toward retirement about two years ago when he realized he could afford it.

“A lot of my friends were looking at retiring and they began asking me how long I had [worked] for the county,” said Campbell, 53.

In his sixth year as principal of Centreville High School, Campbell has 31 years in public education of which 29 were spent in Fairfax County Public Schools.

“I began thinking, I have a stable amount of money and I can retire and support myself,” he said.

In the past few years, the school system reported an increase in the number of principals and teachers retiring, many of whom were looking for financial stability after the economic slump.

At the beginning of the school year, the school system fielded 31 new principals — a greater number than seen in previous years, said Superintendent Dr. Jack D. Dale.

The number of retiring teachers has gone from 263 during the 2008-09 school year to 371 during the 2010-11 school year. Retirement numbers for the current school year are not yet available.

“Over the past few years, many teachers have chosen to defer their retirement, in many cases as a result of the economic downturn,” schools spokeswoman Mary Shaw said. “However, we expect an increase in retirement activity this year. Fairfax County Public Schools has prepared for the retirement situation by working diligently on our recruitment efforts with in-state colleges and universities.”

The additional increase in retirements might be a result of Baby Boomers coming of age. Boomers are adults born between 1946 and 1964.

Campbell, who is among the youngest boomers, said his choice to retire was less about economy and more about timing.

“My personal decision was that my son was graduating [from Centreville High School] and I wanted to see that through,” said Campbell, who is retiring at the end of the school year and moving to Huntsville, Ala., for a job as a principal of a small high school. Campbell’s wife, Becky, is a teacher at Chantilly High School and will continue on here while he works in Alabama.

“As a principal he is so wonderful,” said math teacher Amy Balint. “He is known for being a parent as well as a principal. He is someone who treats every kid like his own and he treats every teacher like a colleague. I will miss the cute sports ties that he wears in support of his children and in support of the school. Mike's philosophy is that all students can learn in an environment that is conducive to learning. He believes that education is more than just opening a book and reading.”

Fellow math teacher Jed Williams said, “He has really brought this community together and made our school the best school around. We, as his staff, are all sad to see him leave.”

Campbell said he will miss Centreville High School and the family he has been a part of there.

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com