San Diego Superintendent Carl Cohn’s ability to retain his job past December will depend on the future of legislation currently pending in the state Capitol. The proposed law, SB 901, would extend expiring provisions in state law that allow certain retired school employees to collect their pension while they continue working.

“That provision has been there for a while, and I’ve been working under it. If it were to sunset, I wouldn’t be able to work,” Cohn said.

As a retired Long Beach Unified superintendent, Cohn is currently collecting a pension on top of his $250,000 annual salary. If the law doesn’t pass, Cohn would be forced to give up his pension for the rest of his life in order to continue working.

The district’s head of government relations, Arun Ramanathan, said the proposed law has not proven to be controversial in Sacramento and is expected to be signed by the governor with little fanfare, and Cohn said he is not worrying about the pension issue in making his plans.

“I’m not counting on that bill in planning my future in San Diego,” he said.

Asked if he plans serve out the full length of his contract with San Diego Unified, which runs through June 30, 2009, Cohn did not offer a direct answer, saying only that the fate of the state legislation would not affect his decision.

Should the law not pass, Cohn said he would not seek to find a technical workaround of the ilk the district fashioned for his protege, Dick Van Der Laan, which allowed the communications consultant to collect his pension while working for the district even though he didn’t qualify for the expiring exceptions.

“Some places come up with elaborate other ways that people get away with, but that is not something that I would want to do,” Cohn said.


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