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Stung by the APERS scandal last year, in which three county officials resigned improperly so they could collect retirement and a paycheck at the same time, Garland County residents have raised questions about two coaches who retired from Lake Hamilton High School July 1 and have reapplied for their jobs. The school is interviewing others for the coaching jobs as well. A decision is expected Thursday.

Coach John Utley said track coach Karl Koonce (who also teaches biology) and football coach Jerry Clay retired July 1. If rehired, they would be paid both retirement and salary. Utley said all Arkansas Teacher Retirement System rules were followed; the men emptied their offices and turned in their keys. Koonce and Clay both have been teachers for 38 years.

George Hopkins, director of the ATRS, said teachers with 38 years or more service who've been retired for at least 30 days may reapply for school jobs. Those with less service must wait six months. Hopkins said it is not "gaming the system" to take advantage of the rehiring rules. In fact, he said, rehiring retired teachers benefits the system financially. Schools must pay into the retirement system an amount equal to 14 percent of a rehired retirees pay.

If Koonce and Clay are rehired, they'll be among the 3,600-plus rehired retirees now in the teacher retirement system.

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