Some Tampa Bay school districts continue to hire employees out of retirement despite controversy over the practice of "double-dipping."
The Pinellas County School Board last week voted 6-1 to allow superintendent Julie Janssen to rehire six top administrators, some of whom could be eligible to collect their pensions while working full-time. All six administrators previously retired under the state's Deferred Retirement Option Program, or DROP.
School Board member Robin Wikle dissented, saying rehiring highly paid employees who have reached retirement discourages rising talent from seeking more responsibility in a district that needs to build future leaders.
"It's not about whether these employees do their job or have a value to the school system — they do," Wikle said. "It doesn't allow for natural attrition."
Board member Linda Lerner countered that Janssen gave good justification for filling each of the positions with experienced employees. The number of DROP hires — teachers and administrators — in Pinellas fell from 51 in 2009-10 to 13 so far this year.
State law once required that government employees sit out a month before being rehired into government positions.
But under a legislative revision designed to curb double-dipping, employees with a retirement date of July 1, 2010, or later must sit out for six months and forgo their retirement benefits for an additional six months after they return to their jobs.
In Hillsborough County, employee benefits manager Deborah Henry said, that change alone could be enough to keep DROP rehires from filling the roster this year. Last year, the district decided to end the practice of extending contracts for those who had reached retirement. But a few months later, the School Board agreed to rehire 130 senior teachers at the salary they would have made with five years' experience.
Board member Candy Olson said that while the board hasn't talked about DROP in a while, she sees Hillsborough rehiring select employees with specialized qualifications based on need. "It's hard to balance," Olson said. "You understand someone made a decision and then five years later they decide it's not the best decision."
Janssen outlined her reasons to the Pinellas School Board for the six top rehires:
• Catherine Fleeger, deputy superintendent and chief academic officer. Fleeger will stay on for a semester with the new title of "associate superintendent, curriculum and instruction." She will maintain her current responsibilities, while training her successor. Fleeger made $122,712 in 2009-10, but will make $114,452 in 2010-11.
• Barbara Thornton, associate superintendent of secondary schools. Though the district's regional administration is being redesigned, Thornton "is the only regional superintendent with the knowledge and experience to assist with this transition," Janssen wrote to the board. She plans to keep Thornton through Jan. 21, 2011, at a salary of $105,974, lower than her previous pay of $114,452. Her new title will be "assistant superintendent, region office."
• Leonard Krysko, director of facilities and operations business management. Krysko is focused on putting "processes in place to control overspending and to increase oversight of all purchases of goods and services," Janssen noted. His salary will go from $74,272 to $75,386 with the 1.5 percent raise all district employees are getting in 2010-11.
• Harriet Konstantinidis, director of human resources, is helping merge departments. Her salary will go from $84,126 to $85,388 with the raise.
• Allen Mortimer, director of planning and policy, has helped overhaul the district's policy manual. He is training his successor to take over at the end of the year. Mortimer's salary goes from $84,126 to $85,388 with the raise.
• Clayton Snare, administrator on assignment with the centers of excellence. He is expected to be replaced at the end of the year. Snare's salary will go from $84,126 to $85,388 with the raise.