Retired teacher returns to work only to have retirement pay threatened

A retired and re-employed West St. Mary High School teacher was paid full-time wages retroactively to his first day of employment after originally being hired to work only quarter-time.

According to information disseminated at this month’s St. Mary Parish School Board meeting, Melvin Coleman was hired Jan. 7 to teach chemistry at West St. Mary because the school had a critical shortage of science teachers.

Coleman had retired in May 2012 from the same school.

During Thursday’s meeting of the board, Roland Verret, a board member from Amelia, questioned the retroactive payment, noting that a retired teacher must sit out a year before being able to receive both a paycheck and his retirement benefits.

According to the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana website, “Re-employed ‘retired teachers’ will have their TRSL benefits suspended during the 12-month period immediately following the effective date of retirement or the duration of such active service, whichever occurs first,” when they are classified as retired, return-to-work teachers.

Coleman taught for 42 years prior to his retirement, with 35 of those years being in St. Mary Parish between public and parochial schools, according to Ricky Armelin, school system director of human resources.

The total cost to the school system, including benefits, for the half school year at full time Coleman has been approved to work will cost $37,168.09, according to Superintendent Donald Aguillard.

Aguillard said Monday in an email, “Mr. Coleman has been working a full schedule since Jan. 7. He teaches one section of chemistry and works at school two blocks preparing for lectures and labs. Mr. Coleman also facilitates the content teacher meetings. (West St. Mary) was without a chemistry teacher for the first semester. Mr. Coleman came out of retirement to help provide (West St. Mary) students the necessary chemistry. His status was changed because he is working above and beyond the initial block of time needed to teach one section.”

Aguillard added that Coleman has been instructed to prepare time sheets attesting to his work since Jan. 7.

Coleman could not be reached for comment.

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