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The Forest Grove administrator will have the opportunity to work back for up to four years as part of Senate Bill 1049.

COURTESY PHOTO - Forest Grove High School Principal Karen O'Neill hands out diplomas as part of the school's graduation ceremony. O'Neill has retired, but is working back as part of Senate Bill 1049.Forest Grove High School Principal Karen O'Neill has retired — kind of.

The long-standing administrator — who's been with the Forest Grove School District since 2004 — has officially retired, but as part of Senate Bill 1049 passed in 2019, O'Neill will for the next four years be afforded the right to work back between July 1, 2020 and December 31, 2024.

Senate Bill 1049 was written as a means of paying down the cost of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). Retirees — like O'Neill — that work back, no longer pay into the system, but are paying down the liability in the interests of helping to address the state's burgeoning pension funding deficit.

The Bill's impact falls mostly on the state's longer-term employees and/or those at the top of the pay scale. The law redirects a percentage of employees' required retirement contribution towards support for the PERS pension fund.

Employees making more than $30,000 a year and hired on or before Aug. 28, 2003, are now required to send 2.5% of their salary to support the pension, while the remainder of their required retirement contributions — another 3.5% of salary — will still stream to the individual account.

Employees hired after Aug. 28, 2003, who make more than $30,000 a year will be sending 0.75% of salary to support the pension fund, with the remaining 5.25% of salary still streaming to individual accounts.

Presently, O'Neill is working on a temporary contract that runs until the end of the school year, at which she will either remain as the principal or an alternative candidate will fill her position.

COURTESY PHOTO - Forest Grove School District Superintendent David Parker.The situation was discussed during a public Zoom meeting Wednesday evening, Feb.10, with Forest Grove School District Superintendent David Parker and FGSD Director of Human Resources Kevin Noreen.

While encouraged, there was limited public participation. However, Parker and Noreen walked participants through the school board's decided-on process to choose the next Forest Grove High School principal, noting that this is the first time the district's been faced with this dilemma since 1049 was passed.

"They wrote a policy that basically says, when a retiree retires from our district, we open the slot and we run a competition," Parker said. "And that's what's happened in this situation. Karen (O'Neill) has retired, and so for her to continue in that spot, she needs to interview for it, and it's our job to run a competitive process to make sure that we're putting the right person in that spot."

Parker said the hope is to begin the interview process at the beginning of March and have a decision by the end of that same month. He said there will be a group of participants as a part of that process, but ultimately a new — or old (O'Neill) — principal will be decided on by him.

"In the end, it's the decision of the superintendent," Parker said. "There'll be a team that will go through and do some interviews, but in the end it's got to be my decision on this and I will choose the right one for our district at this moment."


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