June 24, 2018
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Oxford Hills school district superintendent says hiring retired staff used only as last resort

By Sun Journal

LEWISTON, Maine — In 2011, 1,256 people were receiving pensions through the Maine State Retirement System and were rehired by the same or other public employers.

Most of those are school employees, but others include employees of Maine State Prison, Department of Conservation, Department of Marine Resources, Public Utilities Commission, Maine State Library and the Department of Public Safety, among others.

SAD 17, the Oxford Hills School District, last year had 15 employees listed as once retired and since rehired.

According to Superintendent Richard Colpitts, it doesn’t happen often that an employee retires and is rehired, but this year one teacher did retire and will return in a teaching position and another retiring teacher will return as an education technician.

“Having a retiree who is willing to work, despite the reduction in pay and no benefits, is actually a service to the district,” Colpitts said, especially given that retiree’s “expertise and experience.”

Said Colpitts, defending his district’s rehiring, “We don’t exclude retirees who have an interest in applying for jobs from applying.”

However, he said, “we always tell our principals that they have to interview all non-retirees first because we’re looking for people who are going to be with us for the next 20 years. Then, in the absence of finding a qualified candidate, we will look at the retiree. We’re always looking at the best-qualified person.”

For instance, last year a physical education health care position opened up and Colpitts said he recommended that rehiring the retiree because, after going through the interview process, “we just didn’t find another qualified candidate.”

Even though the district’s hiring procedures discourage rehiring retirees unless another qualified candidate can’t be found, Colpitts said, “I’d hate to say I’m going to exclude a class from the candidate pool if they’re most qualified.” But, he said, that’s a decision superintendents are entitled to make in their respective districts.

According to the Maine Public Employee Retirement System, the Auburn School Department had 16 public-sector retirees working in 2011.

Superintendent Katy Grondin said she requires employees to reapply for their jobs if they want to retire, get a pension and return to earn a paycheck. If they’re the best candidate, she said, they get the job. If they’re not the best candidate, they don’t.

“We say to them, ‘If you want to retire, you’re welcome to retire, and then you’re welcome to apply,'” she said.

Although Grondin could name some retirees who accepted other positions within the school system — former teachers who became ed techs, for example — she could not recall any who had returned to their former jobs.

Grondin acknowledged that rehiring retirees could save the school system money, but she said that savings would be short-term at best and it isn’t something the school system has strongly considered.

“If I were in a big budget crunch and we were looking [to save] major funds, absolutely, we’d say, ‘OK, is it fiscally responsible for us to start looking at that?’ We haven’t had to do that at this point,” she said.

In SAD 9, which covers the Farmington area, 18 retirees were listed as working there last year — including Superintendent Michael Cormier. He declined to comment on being a rehired retiree.

See more from the Sun Journal at sunjournal.com..

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