This week's book giveaway is in the OCPJP forum. We're giving away four copies of OCA/OCP Java SE 7 Programmer I & II Study Guide and have Kathy Sierra & Bert Bates on-line! See this thread for details.
In my opinion, this is actually common. When someone designs a class, they are thinking... "This variable is used for internal calcs, it should be private" or "This variable should be exposed, so I'll make it public, or provide a getter". I don't anyone thinks... "This variable will be used by a subclass, that I'll need next year, so I'll make it protected".
In my opinion, it may be best to go back and refactor the superclass.