Double dip? Retired teacher gets hired back

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Frank Schultz
Tuesday, August 13, 2013

JANESVILLE—The Janesville School Board on Tuesday voted to rehire a teacher who retired in June, but not without considerable debate about double-dipping.

Joe Dye, the Parker High School math teacher and athletics director who retired June 4, will return to fill those same positions at a salary of $75,000, the same salary he had when he left, officials said.

Dye also will collect his pension.

While this is a rare event here, it happens often on a statewide basis. A recent report by the Legislative Audit Bureau found that in a 15-month period, local governments hired 2,599 retirees who collected a state pension.

School board member Kevin Murray said it may be legal, but he doesn’t think it’s right.

“It’s not about Joe Dye,” Murray said. “Joe Dye has been nothing but distinguished and wonderful for the school district, but he did retire. …

“To me, this looks like the perfect case for people to say, or I could say, extreme double-dipping,” Murray continued.

Other board members echoed Murray’s compliments of Dye’s character and respected career.

Murray said he is a retired firefighter who benefits from a state pension, but the public’s distaste for double-dipping undermines support for such benefits for public workers.

Why couldn’t the district do without Dye? Murray asked.

Personnel director Steve Sperry laid out what happened under questioning, mostly from Murray and board members Scott Feldt and Bill Sodemann,

Parker and Craig high schools had eight openings for math teachers. Seven of those were eventually hired, but the position Dye held was held open because some teachers at Parker were interested in Dye’s other job, that of Parker athletics director.

No internal candidates emerged, however, so the district posted Dye’s job: a teacher for two periods of math and three periods as athletics director.

It would have been difficult to hire those positions separately, Sperry said.

Parker Principal Chris Laue told the board that no other part-time teaching positions were open, so the combined math/athletics director combination was the only alternative.

The law did not allow the district to talk to Dye for 30 days after his retirement, and no one did, Sperry said. But it happened that the job was posted July 9, after the 30-day limit.

Sodemann said he was sure no one did anything inappropriate, but “it just looks funny.”

Five people were interviewed, but none had all the qualifications, Sperry said. That’s when Laue suggested Dye.

Dye brings considerable skills and experience to the job, and he could be a mentor to the new teachers, Sperry said.

Sodemann said the district could have found a suitable candidate if it hadn’t delayed posting the position.

Board member Karl Dommershausen supported Dye’s hiring, noting that school districts are competing like never before for talent.

“This is what competition looks like. We need to compete to hire the best teachers,” Dommershausen said.

Sodemann asked about the possibility of hiring Dye at a lower salary. Sperry said Dye is not interested at working for less.

“This is a person who will get a job somewhere else,” Sperry said.

Under questioning from Feldt, Sperry said Dye is a high performer but that there “probably are” other high-performing teachers who earn less than $75,000.

Board member David DiStefano said the board should not micro-manage salary levels.

Murray agreed with DiStefano but said that should not stop him from knowing the details.

The vote was 4-3 to hire Dye. Voting “no” were Feldt, Murray and Sodemann. Greg Ardrey and Deborah Schilling were absent.

Dye worked at Parker for 33 years, according to Gazette records. He was instructional manager for the math department for 13 years. He was head coach of boys track for 32 years and either assistant coach or head coach of the football team for 32 years. He was athletics director for two years.

Dye could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

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