Policy change makes it harder for retired teachers to 'double-dip'

Future at-will employees of Horry County Schools now have a few more hurdles before they can start work.

The Board of Education unanimously approved changes to the at-will policy during their regular meeting Monday. Now, employees who also receive retirement from the state must have more solid justifications for their work with Horry schools.

It’s not that we’re trying to do anything different, we’re just trying to show to ourselves and the public why they’re being kept on.

John Poston,Horry County Board of Education District 8 representative

At-will employees are people who have retired under the state’s Teacher and Employee Retention Initiative (TERI) program and receive retirement, who are then hired again by a school district. Critics of TERI say it allows employees to "double dip:" at-will employees receive a pension and a paycheck from whatever district they’re employed.

The policy change stems from a need for transparency, said John Poston, District 8 representative.

"We want to make sure that we’re filling a need that we can’t meet with regular employees," he said.

Horry County Schools has about 116 at-will employees, according to Mary Anderson, chief human resources officer with the district.

"We value our at-will employees and our regular employees," Anderson said. "The board just wanted a chance to review the policy again."

Less than 1 percent of Horry County Schools staff are at-will employees. David Cox, chair of the human resources committee, said the district wanted to look back at the policy after an "uproar" in 2010.

The board was criticized for allowing retired employees to "double dip" and get a district paycheck several years ago, but the need for critical subject teachers has spiked, Cox said. Now the district has to fill positions, and sometimes at-will employees fill that niche.

"We have opened up our window of opportunity for at-wills employees," Cox said.

116 Number of at-will Horry County Schools employees

The policy change came after months of discussion between the board and district staff. The district’s human resources committee motioned to include a specific justification section to at-will employees’ applications last month.

Now, hiring managers must provide a solid reason to re-hire an employee. Those reasons include: the applicant has a specialized skill set; the applicant gives diversity to a school’s staff ;or the applicant teaches in a critical needs field.

"Critical needs is easy to justify, because we don’t have the applicant pool to hire many," Anderson said.

Under the new policy, at-will hires must get approval from a hiring manager, then the executive director –such as a principal – and then the chief officer of the division – someone at the school district. Anderson then reviews the applicants with Superintendent Rick Maxey, and the board of education must approve the choice.

We’re just making a stronger process with stronger justifications and reasoning for hiring at-will employees.

Mary Anderson, chief human resources officer

The amount of steps before hiring is meant to filter out anyone who does not have enough justification to be hired, Anderson said.

"You obviously want people who are good with kids, but there needs to be something else, too," Anderson said.

Claire Byun: 843-626-0381, @Claire_TSN

Related stories from Myrtle Beach Sun News