Administrator makes 'retire-rehire' move

When Bruce Colley quietly retired at the end of June, after 31 years’ service to Bainbridge and North Kitsap schools, his colleagues didn’t throw a farewell bash.

And, in fact, the Bainbridge Island School District’s executive director for administrative services didn’t stay away long; he was rehired by the school district one month later, on Aug. 1, as a “retire-rehire.”

The term refers to the practice of bringing back a teacher who has left the district for at least one calendar month with no written or verbal agreement that they would be rehired.

Coming back – or rather, not leaving – pleases the longtime educator Colley.

“I truly do enjoy working in the school district,” he said. “The prospect of working here is pretty positive. There’s a lot of work left to be done.”

Colley and several other district employees are beneficiaries of recent legislation allowing them to collect both a paycheck and a pension.

In 2001, the Legislature amended an existing law to extend to nine months a year the time an employee could work while collecting their retirement, making it more feasible for teachers and other government workers to return to work.

It has been helpful, school administrators say. In academic areas where the shortage of good teachers is most extreme – science, math, music, special education and such staff as counselors and speech and language pathologists – the returnees can play a needed role.

But it also raised questions statewide about whether some employees were taking advantage of the law – retiring just to start their pension, then being rehired without competition.

That prompted more changes to the law; in 2003, House Bill 1829 increased the amount of time a state employee had to be retired to 90 days. A less-stringent change for teachers – 45 days away from the job, instead of 30 days – was vetoed by Gov. Gary Locke.

Several Bainbridge school district employees are retire-rehire for 2004-05, including media specialist Annamarie Lavieri, who’s filling in for an Ordway employee on leave, and BHS science teacher Bruce Claiborne, also filling in for one year.

Both fill staffing needs that would otherwise go unmet, school officials say.

“Its very unlikely that a teacher will leave a full-time job in another district to fill in here for one year,” said Faith Chapel, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

That’s also true for administrative slots, said Bruce Weiland, school board president.

“Having recently gone through the candidate searches for both the administrative post Bruce (Colley) held as well as the high school principalship, we can assure you that it is extremely difficult to find qualified people,” Weiland said. “The school district made a serious good-faith effort to fill the position. We did consider every applicant according to their actual credentials and experience.”

Colley’s resume includes 14 years as a teacher, serving at both Blakely and Wilkes elementary schools; six years as middle school assistant principal in North Kitsap, followed by three years as principal at Suquamish Elementary; a return to Bainbridge to replace retired Bill Hoots as Ordway principal and, after nine years in that post, moving to the central office slot Ken Crawford vacated when he became superintendent.

Chapel said the three applicants who applied for Colley’s job did not have administrative experience.

For Colley, moving back into the job he’s occupied since spring of 2002 means being part of a team that is, he says, the biggest reason to come back to work.

“Having long been associated with the school district I have a personal interest and professional interest in the school district – past, present and future,” he said. “A large incentive to move to the district was the opportunity to work closely with (Superintendent) Ken Crawford.

“And quite honestly, the incentive to look at being rehired into this position is the wonderful team here. It’s been terrific.”

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