Retirement suits them

NASHUA – Some school employees have retired, cashed in their vacation and sick days, and then returned to the district to work part time, most often receiving per-diem pay as substitute teachers.

Jim Mealey, chief operating officer of the Nashua School District, essentially said these retired teachers aren’t rolling in dough substituting.

Like all substitutes, retired teachers earn $62 a day, Mealey said. That total would appear in the “regular” category in city payroll records, he said.

The regular category also includes their last regular pay amount from when they taught full time, making it hard to discern the amount of substitute teacher pay they received, Mealey said.

As with many other city employees, school department retirees were able to cash in accumulated sick and vacation days, allowing them to receive checks of thousands of dollars on their retirement.

Compared with some other city departments, school employees’ gross pay tends not to greatly outdistance salaries, especially considering the huge numbers of teachers and other school staff.

Based on city wage data for the 2008 calendar year, 853 teachers earned gross wages 1 percent to 24 percent higher than their salaries. Only 19 received gross pay 25 percent to 50 percent above their salaries, four received 51 percent to 75 percent above, one received 76 percent to 100 percent above and seven received more than 100 percent above.

Common reasons for the extra pay were stipends for coaches, pay for teaching summer school and overtime for custodial workers.

As with other city departments, the highest gross pay went to individuals who retired and cashed out those unused sick and personal days.

Wage data for the 2008 calendar year reflects salaries of employees who retired at the end of the last school year and then received the other compensation – showing relatively small salaries and high gross pay.

In one unusual case, John Richard, a 37-year school employee, retired as principal and later took a part-time job as a grant coordinator. Because of the large payout of sick and vacation days when he retired, his 2008 gross earnings of $125,997.65 represented 300 percent more than his salary for that year of $31,500.

It’s often to the school district’s advantage to hire retired employees for part-time positions because the district gets an experienced professional without having to pay benefits, Mealey said.

Mealey said there’s an error in one job description in the school department salary data. The data lists Charles Katsohis as working in computer repairs.

Katsohis is a former principal of two schools and current school board member. As a board member, he’s technically an employee of the district, but can do nothing other than serve the board.

But Katsohis has never worked as a computer guy, Mealey said.