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Pension Perks: Retired, but back in old job

2 local superintendents still on the job, collecting pensions

John Rosenberry (middle), Montmorency's interim superintendent, presents a report during a recent school board meeting. He recently retired as superintendent, but returned to his job in early August. Board member Mike Robbings (left) and board President Mike Lewis are next to him.
John Rosenberry (middle), Montmorency's interim superintendent, presents a report during a recent school board meeting. He recently retired as superintendent, but returned to his job in early August. Board member Mike Robbings (left) and board President Mike Lewis are next to him.

ROCK FALLS – In November, Montmorency Superintendent John Rosenberry announced his retirement. His last day was June 30.

He did retire. And he started collecting his $6,300-a-month pension.

But the nameplate for the superintendent never changed.

Rosenberry is now one of two school superintendents in Whiteside County who officially retired but returned to their old jobs.

The other is Gregory Lutyens, who retired in 2009 from the 40-student Nelson school district. But he continued to lead the tiny district. He gets a state pension of $7,000 a month.

In Illinois, members of the Teachers Retirement System can work up to 100 days a year and still keep their pensions.

Lutyens has worked all 100 days, but Rosenberry said he’ll likely log fewer.

‘I have fishing to do’

Rosenberry actually spent about a month in true retirement, starting July 1. On Aug. 4, however, he found out the board wanted him to stay for an extra year as the interim superintendent.

Two days later, the deal was sealed.

But Rosenberry, 60, said there is “no chance” he’ll stay for a long time.

“I’m looking to actually retire. That’s what I retired for,” he said. “I have fishing to do.”

In his last year, Rosenberry made $119,000. Working 100 days a year, he’ll pull in $50,000.

In the spring, the Montmorency school board decided to hire math teacher Alex Moore as the new $60,000-a-year principal. Rosenberry had been serving as both superintendent and principal of the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school south of Rock Falls.

Moore is studying to get the certification needed to become a superintendent.

In February, the school board interviewed two finalists for the superintendent’s job, but made no offers. Board President Mike Lewis said members were focused on a $1.3 million construction project at the school, so in the interest of stability, it decided to keep Rosenberry for the time being.

The board is employing Rosenberry on a year-to-year basis to lead the 300-student school, Lewis explained.

“He wants to spend time with his children and grandchildren,” Lewis said.

Earlier this year, Nelson consolidated with the East Coloma school district, which was more than six times larger. In May, the East Coloma-Nelson board appointed Greg Andersen as superintendent and named Lutyens as backup. Two months later, though, Andersen resigned without public explanation and the board picked Lutyens as his interim replacement.

Lutyens will receive $50,000 in his new role.

If he works 100 days, he’ll start making $500 a day. At Nelson, Lutyens made $60,000 a year, which amounted to $600 a day. With his $84,000-a-year pension, he made a total of $144,000.

As superintendent of Nelson, he made $60 a day more than the superintendent of the Sterling district, which was 81 times larger.

In interviews earlier this year, Lutyens was quick to point out he got no benefits or vacation time in his last years at Nelson. He also received no raises.

“I have no secretary or bookeeper,” Lutyens said in an email earlier this year. “I perform all of the office functions for the school and district.”

Practice called double-dipping

Some groups question the practice of government pensioners coming back to work as public employees. They call it double-dipping.

“If you’re collecting a pension, that’s for your retirement,” said Diana Rickert, a spokeswoman with the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative Chicago-based think tank. “If you’re going to work, you should stop collecting the pension. That is meant to help you with your retirement, not be a cushion in a second career.”

While Rosenberry publicly announced his retirement in November, he said he let the board know about his plans years ahead of time. He was getting 6 percent raises in his last years.

Districts are limited to 6 percent pay increases in the final years of employment of administrators’ and teachers – down from 20 percent a few years ago – unless the districts want to pay the difference to the Teachers Retirement System. Those spiked pay increases result in larger pensions for employees.

“The perks have gotten smaller over the years,” Rickert said, “but they are still far too generous.”

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