Until recently, it was not uncommon for Frederick County Public Schools to send educators into retirement and, soon thereafter, welcome them back into the system as returning employees.
But as of this year, the practice of rehiring retired employees will become less frequent.
The School Board is taking steps to limit the use of their retire-rehire program.
The program, which allows retired employees to be rehired after they start to collect pension benefits, is controversial and has been seen by some critics as “double-dipping.”
“I have been talking about this since I have been on the board,” said School Board member and former board president Brad Young. “To me it was a morale issue.”
Throughout the years, the retire-rehire program has allowed county schools to take advantage of the institutional knowledge and expertise of retired educators, especially in harder-to-staff areas, Young said. Young’s mother, a former Frederick County Public Schools principal, took advantage of the program for five years after she retired.
Rehiring retired employees also is cheaper for the school system, because they already receive benefits, Young said.
But the program has been problematic because it limits the opportunities for existing employees looking for advancement, Young said.
“They were blocking their ability to get a promotion,” he said. “... As a board member I have come across many complaints about this.”
To address this concern, School Board members have directed staff to tighten up the use of the program. Starting July 1, county schools will not be renewing the contracts of at least six employees who participate in the retire-rehire program.
Two of those educators have been working as school principals, earning $116,800 to $119,900 on top of retirement pay. Another two worked as assistant principals, earning $109,900, and one as a math teacher ($60,100) and one as a speech pathologist ($31,300).
Marsha Wise, the school system’s senior administrative manager, said as a result of the board’s new direction, the school system only will use the retire-rehire program in areas of critical need, where it is difficult to find qualified job candidates.
In the coming year, the school system only is looking to rehire two retirees — one vision and mobility specialist to work with special-needs students and one teacher in adapted physical education.
That is a significant change from what the system used to do in the past, Wise said. In the 2011-12 academic year, Frederick County employed eight retirees, including four school-based administrators.
In some cases, retirees did not come from Frederick County schools, but from other systems in Maryland, Wise said.
At this stage, it is too early to determine whether it will be harder for the system to find qualified employees to do the jobs that had before been filled through the retire-rehire program, Wise said.
“Each situation is different,” she said. “Each hiring season presents different challenges.”