Hundreds of city school retirees still on payroll

Posted at 12:24 AM, Feb 08, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-08 07:16:43-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - CBS 6 first uncovered the pattern in May, of retired school employees coming back to work for Richmond Public Schools.

"I think based on what you were able to uncover, it does suggest that there is a more efficient way to use retirees," said RPS School Board Chairman Jeff Bourne.

Retirees were eligible for a pension and collecting paychecks as temporary employees, some had been in those positions for years.

"Clearly temporary to me and I suspect to a lot of folks watching a month, a week, two weeks, you know it's not years," said Bourne.

Some retirees were working up to seven years, full time, but with temporary titles. Several were administrators collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in income. School officials explained that retirees were just filling gaps and were intended to be short term fixes for hiring vacancies.

We asked for a complete list last spring and it turned up 332 names of retirees working in the school system, about 15 percent of the RPS workforce.  Just last week, some eight months after our original story aired, we received an updated list. It shows that the number of retirees has gone down by 35. There are now 297 retirees. But Bourne believes even that reduced number raises a red flag.

“We’ve got to get a handle on this issue and make sure that we're using our retired teachers in a strategic and focused way, so that we're only using our retired teachers when it's critical," said Bourne.

One name missing from the new list is that of the former chief of staff for RPS. During our first story the retiree was working as the person second-in-command to the school superintendent.

CBS 6 was told he’s no longer working for the school district. But school board member Kim Gray says the new, shorter list is a bit misleading. Gray says that because some retirees contract out their services to the district, or have become consultants, it keeps their names from appearing on the list.

“I've seen them around and I've called and they pick up the phone but they are not on this list," said Gray.

Gray and Bourne both agree some use of retirees is needed and actually helpful to a school district.

But as RPS faces an $11.5 million dollar deficit and a proposal to cut 65 instructional positions and outsource 500 more jobs, morale among employees is a top concern.

In fact our initial investigation began after teachers reached out to us and voiced their frustrations. Bourne contends leaving retirees in the system too long can have a serious impact.

"That's a piece of what I think has affected morale in Richmond Public Schools," said Bourne.

Gray says it’s disheartening for teachers who want to be promoted.

"It's very hard to give people hope for advancement and a better future when that's continually happening," she said.

The Richmond school board was recently provided the new list of 297 retirees working in the system. Gray says they'll be taking a close look at it.

"I think changes are coming down the pike," said Gray.