Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Law lets parents weigh in on rehirings

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

SPRINGFIELD TWP. - At first, parent Brad Bays didn't like the idea that the Finneytown Board of Education might rehire Superintendent Sam Martin three days after he retired.

But that was before he thought it through.

"It struck me as a little bit unusual. I wasn't supportive,'' Bays said this week. "Now, I think this is a great opportunity to recoup money we no longer get from the state.''

Bays got an opportunity to voice his opinion that few Ohio parents have been afforded - until last month. A change in Ohio law that took effect Sept. 26 now requires a public hearing and sets out a timeline before an employee can be paid a salary while collecting retirement benefits.

Rehiring a superintendent after retirement is not new - Lakota and Ross did it earlier this year - but the public hearing is. The law affects five state retirement systems, including the State Teachers Retirement System, from which Martin would collect his retirement.

"This is the first one we know of that has had a public hearing,'' said Donna Boylan, community and government relations director for the Buckeye Association of School Administrators.

"It is very likely he is the first in the state,'' she said. "Other districts have asked for sample resolutions we've prepared. This is still so new.''

About three dozen people came to Finneytown's hearing Monday night.

Most were supportive of hiring back Martin, 52, but only if it saved the district money. A few thought the decision should be made after the November election.

"I'm in favor of retire/rehire if the board saves money,'' said parent and Finneytown teacher Jim Dickerson. "I'm also in favor ... if the district keeps its options open and doesn't give lengthy contracts. I'm opposed to a full salary/benefit (package).''

Typically, when someone is rehired, the salary he or she receives is lower than the salary before retirement, said Scott Ebright, of the Ohio School Boards Association.

Martin, who has been superintendent of the 1,791-pupil district for three years, is eligible to retire at the end of the year and asked the board in August if it would rehire him. He earns $114,736 annually and has a contract that expires in July 2005.

"We have to examine the savings,'' said resident Rick Payne, who is running for a seat on the board of education. "We are thankful something wasn't just slammed through in September (before the law changed).''

That was intentional, said Gary Metzger, school board president.

"We wanted to take our time and let the public be involved,'' Metzger said.

Negotiations on terms of Martin's new contract are just beginning. No decision will be made until the board's Nov. 17 meeting, Metzger said.


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