Saturday, February 11, 2006

Report: STRS review of 2005 accomplishments and major actions of Board and STRS associates

During the State Teachers Retirement Board Planning Retreat on Feb. 1-3, 2006, a review of accomplishments and major actions of the Retirement Board and STRS Ohio associates during calendar year 2005 was included in the workshop materials. Many of these items have been shared previously with our members through newsletters and the STRS Ohio Web site. We thought some of our members might like seeing a complete compilation in one document. As always, we welcome your comments and input.
To view a copy of the report, click the link below.

Curtis to Lloyd re: Sidaway trial

From Tom Curtis, February 11, 2006
Re: Sidaway trial
Hello Ralph,
You always have the right to make a response, but it is my understanding they are not looking for comment and do not really need to be bothered by such.
This trial is only about one thing. The prosecution has to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the people indicted for the violation of ethics, in fact did so with knowledge that it was not legal to do what they did. If the prosecution can prove such then charges will be levied, if not, a slap on the hand will be levied and these people will walk away with little consequence. Do we feel they are guilty, Yes! Can she prove they were guilty, time will tell?
I hope this information has proved to be of some insight to you, but again, you have the freedom to write what you want.
If you have some proof of illegal activity then I am sure the prosecution would be interested, otherwise, comment only requires a response that they do not need to be bothered with. Columbus attorneys and courts have their hands so full of the Thomas Noe situation that they do not need anything more to deal with.
The prosecution already understand that these STRS people made many very poor business decisions, but as one very high dollar attorney told me in 2003, that is not against the law, it only shows that these individuals were not worthy of our faith and trust.
This advice may sound contradictory from someone who is always putting out his comments and opinions. I have written Lara Baker, (the prosecuting attorney for the Sidaway case) and expressed my concerns. She has responded with the information I stated above. That is sufficient for me, as I do understand her position and will allow her to make her case. We will someday see how successful she is in obtaining a conviction. Please remember she is up against a pay-to-play system of government and has to deal with that reality every time she enters the courtroom. Politics is such a huge part of all business in Ohio. Unfortunately, Ohio government is now known as being extremely corrupt throughout the USA.
I am trying to focus on the problem at the STRS. Thus far, that has been pretty elusive, but I will keep asking questions and searching for the missing pieces to the puzzle. I for one need to have some closure to the reason for our current financial situation. From what I can determine to date, as many as 10,000 retirees lost the health care subsidy they were provided for their spouse and/or dependent child at retirement. Why must we suffer the most, because we believed what has now become known as a myth? We placed our faith and trust in the individuals that spoke of such, the OEA and in STRS documentation. We must be a bunch of gullible old farts, huh? Since we only represent a minority of the retiree pool, whom really cares? Obviously, it is not the STRS fiduciaries, or those of us in this situation would have been provided a grandfathering clause when the new rules were established. The lack of compassion for the retiree is ever growing in what appears to be every industry, with the exception of government and business leadership. They historically do very well concerning their own retirement. Go figure how that could happen!
Take care,
Tom Curtis
CORE Advisory Committee Member
From: Ralph Lloyd To: Thomas Curtis Sent: Saturday, February 11, 2006 Subject: Re: 021006 Curtis To All, RE Sidaway Trial
Can I write a response and send it to the prosecution as a friend of the court?
Ralph L Lloyd

Tom Curtis to Jim & Janet Gibson: Coming to Clermont County RTA March 15

Hello Jim & Janet Gibson,
Thank you for the invitation to speak to your Clermont Co. RTA on March 15th. I accept your invitation and will call you to discuss what your group would like me to convey to them. I have been a continual attendee of the monthly STRS board meetings for 3-years and attended the 3-day board retreat at the beginning of this month. I feel well versed, (from a non-board member point of view) on issues and concerns of the STRS retiree.
As you may know, I have worked closely with Dennis Leone and started corresponding with him prior to his initial 13- page report that brought all of the STRS misspending into the public eye. Since that time I have grown to know Dennis much better and feel the utmost respect and gratitude for his efforts and have never found him to be anything but a true professional, even when he strongly has disagreed with someone else's opinion. I hold nothing but admiration for Dennis, which has compelled me to spend the amount of time I have devoted to this reform process.
Though I have little interest in becoming a board member, I will attempt to help support Dennis Leone and John Lazares in their efforts to curb the spending at the STRS and to find ways to fund our health care situation. I am working on this issue with another retiree in the event the increase in contributions does not succeed.
I look forward to speaking to the Clermont Co. RTA and will accept any stipend your organization might offer, as all CORE members have always paid their own expenses for the most part. We have only accepted reimbursement for printing and postal expenses during the election period for the candidates CORE has endorsed. However, if you offer no stipend, I will still gladly speak to your RTA, as a service to my fellow educators.
If I might, I would also like you to invite one of the STRS candidates, Thomas Hall, to attend with me. That is, if he can get away from his duties at Miami University on that date. It is imperative that the candidates be seen by those who might be in contact with active, inactive or disability retirees that will be voting in the spring election. I have attached a picture of Thomas Hall.
I will await to hear back from you before by email before calling you.
Tom Curtis
CORE Advisory Committee Member

Tom Curtis to Ken Ruth: Who qualifies as 'inactive'

February 11, 2006

Hello Ken,

Your friend that left teaching, if she did not take all of her funds out of her STRS account, is classified as an inactive and will receive a ballot this April. Please make sure she has information about our two candidates, Tom Hall and Mark Fredrick, and ask for her support for them.

Tom Curtis

Editorial; John Brandt (OSBA): 'ENOUGH'

Editorial by John Brandt

December 2005


Retired educators in Ohio have a pretty good deal. They can retire after 30 years of service, often in their early- to mid-fifties with a full pension benefit equal to about two-thirds of their final average salary. If they work longer, the pension benefit can be as high as 88% of the final salary.

Their benefits are guaranteed by law and not subject to fluctuations in the stock market. They can apply for retire-rehire and keep their full pension while collecting an added salary. Oh yes, they get health-care benefits from the day they retire.

The State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) is struggling to pay the cost of health care and prescriptions for retired educators and their spouses and dependents. Most school districts and private businesses are in the same struggle over health-care costs.

There are two major points to be made about the STRS struggle. First, the system is not required by law to provide ANY health-care benefits to retirees, yet it has been doing so for decades. Second, as costs rise rapidly, STRS is considering asking the General Assembly to require school districts to increase their contributions to STRS to pay for the health care.

School districts are already required to pay 14% of the teacher and administrator payroll to STRS for pensions and health care. Teachers and administrators contribute an additional 10% of their salaries to STRS.

Thus, STRS has 24% of the entire educator payroll annually to work with. This is a huge figure and it grows each year. In addition, STRS has about $50 billion in reserve funds invested, and it earns substantial income from those investments.

With all of these resources, STRS has to learn that enough is enough! With 24% of the educator payroll and large investment earnings, STRS must establish benefit and eligibility rules that allow it to live within its means.

Any effort to prop up already generous pensions and benefits by requiring school districts to pay more is unconscionable. Many school districts are in financial crisis, laying off staff and cutting programs.

Taking money away from books, labs, computers, curriculum and school operations to pay for benefits for educators must be opposed. STRS estimates that its proposal to raise school district contributions to STRS to 16.5% of payroll over five years will cost schools more than $250 million per year when fully implemented.

Those dollars must be spent on students, not retirees. Enough is enough!

The views expressed in this editorial are those of the executive director and do not necessarily represent OSBA’s policies or positions.

RH Jones: OSBA Platform Opposing STRS Enhancements

From RH Jones, February 4, 2006
Subject: OSBA Platform Opposing STRS Enhancements
Dear Linda F.R. Omobien:

First, I would like to personally congratulate you on your election to presidency of the OSBA and your Award of Achievement from them. What a great chance for you to do good for our pupils, and their active and retired teachers. I am proud to be a retired 6th grade teacher from the Akron City School System of which you are also honored to serve as a school board member. God Bless Your Service!

My reason for contacting you is that I am concerned that: the OBSA opposes --
according to OSBA Legislative Platform, Personnel Section -- any attempt to increase the employer's share to cover increase in cost. As you probably know, it has been 21-yrs. since there has been increase. Therefore, an enhancement of the present 14% employer rate is long overdue. The teaching profession, and its retirement system, needs an enhancement at this critical time in Ohio history. While businesses are leaving the state for lack of a pool of educated job seekers, the OBSA opposes future benefit enhancements unless accompanied with a reduction in the 14% only a reduction in the employers share.

As a consequence of this type of negative thinking, damage is being done to both the commercial businesses and the public education sectors. And, contrary to this outdated OBSA platform: #1. Our children need, and deserve, well paid career educators with the guarantee of a STRS offering a Compounded COLA pension & health care benefits. #2. And contrary to outdated OBSA statements, these enhanced STRS benefits will attract and keep the best educators serving Ohio's children, and and their communities. The attraction of businesses and keeping them here will thus be the outcome of a financially healthy public school system backed by a forward thinking OSBA that cares for outstanding public schools; for the last several years that has not been the case. Furthermore, backward ultraconservative OSBA attitude is hurting us all. Please help with a progressive change.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I await your response.

Robert Hudson Jones,
A concerned retired career Akron, Ohio teacher

Tom Curtis to Lew Bachtel re: Speaking to Ross County RTA May 17

From Tom Curtis, February 11, 2006
Hello Lew Bachtal,
Thank you for the invitation to speak to your Ross Co. RTA. I accept your invitation and will call you closer to the date to discuss what your group would like me to convey to them. I have been a continual attendee at the monthly STRS board meetings for 3-years and even attended the 3-day board retreat at the beginning of this month. I feel well versed, (from a non-board member point of view) on issues and concerns of the STRS retiree.
As you may know, I have worked closely with Dennis Leone and started corresponding with him prior to his initial 13- page report that brought all of the STRS misspending into the public eye. Since that time I have grown to know Dennis much better and feel the utmost respect and gratitude for his efforts and have never found him to be anything but a true professional, even when he strongly has disagreed with someone else's opinion. I hold nothing but admiration for Dennis, which has compelled me to spend the amount of time I do being involved with this reform process. Though I have little interest in becoming a board member, I will attempt to help support Dennis Leone and John Lazares in their efforts to curb the spending at the STRS and to find ways to fund our health care situation. I am working on this issue with another retiree in the event the increase in contributions does not succeed.
I look forward to speaking to the Ross Co. RTA and will accept any stipend your organization might offer, as all CORE members have always paid their own expenses for the most part. We have only accepted reimbursement for printing and postal expenses during the election period for the candidates CORE has endorsed. However, if you offer no stipend, I will still gladly speak to your RTA, as a service to my fellow educators.
Sincerely, Tom Curtis
CORE Advisory Committee Member
From: Lewis Bachtal To: Thomas Curtis
Sent: Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Subject: Re: 012806 Curtis To All RTA's, Speaking To Your Association
Tom The Ross County Retired Teachers Association would like to invite you to speak to their organization at our May 17, 2006 luncheon meeting in Chillicothe, Ohio if you are available. We meet at 12:00 noon in the Trinity United Methodist Church on Main St.
Lew Bachtal, President

Friday, February 10, 2006

Tom Curtis to Mark Fredrick: some background on CORE

From Tom Curtis, Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Thank you Mark,
This is what we have always tried to do for the candidates we support. Molly and I and others work closely together in an attempt to do such. Molly by far puts out the most visible effort and is always on top of most everything, if she can be.
Please keep in mind, we (CORE) are all volunteers and receive little or no financial support for doing this, as opposed to the OEA, OFT, ORTA and other associations that have paid staff to do such, and a large influx of income to pay for expenses. Those of us that have large printing costs, or snail mail expense receive reimbursement from CORE, if we turn in the receipts; otherwise, we all cover our own expenses. The CORE leadership pays for most everything out of their own pocket and has no other means of financial support, but their own pension. That is why this group is so unusual.
Most of us are the ones who suffered the most when the health care subsidies were removed and are the least financially capable of this. The vast majority of retirees that were least affected by health care expense appear to have little concern, so they are unsympathetic to our cause. We (CORE) have made a definite impact, and have supported such because we believe in helping all STRS members, not just retirees, as some would say. Many of us have found how difficult it has been to lose one third of our pension nearly overnight and do not want others to have to experience such. Unfortunately, without the backing of the actives, we have little ability to bring about much change.
We are constantly told by the STRS that we (CORE) only represent a small minority of the membership and that the rest of the membership feels the STRS is doing a great job. That is management's position and they are sticking with it! That is exactly why the STRS pays for so many studies, to prove just how well they perform, so they can get their usual multiple bonuses each year. The STRS pays for the studies, they get the financial benefit, we lose the financial backing we all worked to obtain. Doesn't that seem appropriate? Actives never realize this until they retire, then they are perplexed at the inequities. Go figure.
From Mark Fredrick, Wednesday, February 8, 2006
Subject: Re: Info On 2 Candidates Endorsed By CORE
Thanks to you also Tom for all your support and effort on my behalf in the STRS run. I see that Molly gets the word out there and the job done quickly. Lets get the vote out in April too . Keep me in all the loops.

Tax info from Paul Boyer

An Open letter to all CORE members and other Retirees:

I have read a few letters from some of our retirees concerning the high cost of their health care each year. If you are not already doing it, taking advantage of this tax savings can save you some big bucks.

I have always done my own taxes, doing them by hand when they were much simpler than they are today. For many years now I have used the TaxCut Program.

In the early 90's I spent about four years in the Tax Aide for the elderly. This is a program run by AARP under contract with IRS. It is all volunteer with legitimate expenses paid. I was responsible for nine counties and had to take a few days' training each year.

I recruited and taught volunteers and set up various sites where seniors could come and receive free help. The program is still available here but vastly changed since I was in it. Anyone living in Ohio and receiving retirement income may receive a tax credit.

A little reminder - a tax deduction is something you subtract from your income before taxes; A tax credit is something you deduct from your tax bill after it is all figured.

Here is a simple paragraph copied and pasted from the Ohio Tax book:

Line 49 Retirement Income Credit

To qualify for the Ohio retirement income credit, you must meet all of the following tests:

You received retirement benefits, annuities or distributions that were made from a pension, retirement or profit-sharing plan. However, qualifying social security benefits and railroad ben­efits that you have already deducted online 40 of Ohio Sched­ule A do not qualify.

You received this income because you have retired.

This income is included in your Ohio adjusted gross income on line 3.

The amount of the credit is as follows:

Amount of qualifying retirement Line 49 retirement

income received and included in income credit for

Ohio adjusted gross income (line 3) taxable year:

during the taxable year:

$500 or less………………………………….......................….0

More than$500, but not more than $1,500 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx$ 25
More than $1,500, but not more than $3,000 xxxxxxxxxxxxxx$ 50
More than $3,000, but not more than $5,000 xxxxxxxxxxxxxx$ 80
More than $5,000, but not more than $8,000 xxxxxxxxxxxxxx$130
More than $8,000 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx$200

The maximum credit per return is $200.

Please note the last statement. This means that if both spouses have retirement income , you need to file separately so that you can get the credit on both returns. If you are 65, there is also a $50.00 credit for each return. These are figured on the back of the 1040 return.

If you decide to do this, then Ohio requires you to use the Married filing separately return for Federal taxes also.

Now, here is where the nice part comes in. If one spouse has higher health care costs that the other, you will usually be able to claim higher health care deductions because they must be above .075% of your total income. When you file married, filing separately and you both have income, you must both itemize. On the federal returns, income and medical expenses for each person must be put on each person’s return. For all other deductions, you may use your own judgment as to which return you put them on. Sometimes you can save taxes by putting certain deductions on one return or the other.

IRS has for years tried to tell us that married filing separately always results in higher taxes but that is rarely true. Alice and I have saved thousands of dollars over the twenty years of our retirement by doing our taxes this way. If this is confusing to you, feel free to send me an email ( or call me at 419-225-7027 and I will try to help you.

Paul L. Boyer

Shirlee Zerkel: Timely tax advice -- Ohio tax savings

From Shirlee Zerkel, February 10, 2006
Yes, this is legit. It is in the Ohio Tax booklet for filing 2005 taxes this year. It is on side 2 of the Ohio IT1040 tax form. But what Paul does not mention is that on line 43 of that Ohio tax form, you can count medical expenses, mileage, dental eye glasses and the part you pay for all medications, premiums, such Medicare B, Medicare supplements and any premiums for health care that you from your pension check to STRS. You do NOT have to itemize.
There is a worksheet in the Ohio tax booklet to figure how much of your expenses are deductible. This is on page 20 of the booklet. In the worksheet box, put in line 1 all the premiums for health that you pay from you pension or to another company and all medical expenses out of pocket that you pay for the year 2005. .
In line two add for any insurance such as long term. Line 3 Subtract line 2a from line 1. Line 4 Enter federal adjusted gross income (line one of your IT1040 Ohio form. Line 5, multiply gross income by .075 (7.5%) and put that on line 6. Subtract line 6 from line 3. If less than -0, enter 0 on line 7. add lines 2b and 7. enter on line 8 and then on line 43 on back side of Ohio tax form.
By doing this I received all Ohio Income taxes that were taken from my pension check each of the past two years. That is great for those of us who have had large medical expenses that take 30 to 40% of our pension money.
Just trying to help other STRS retirees survive,

Article: When your health plan won't pay

Sometimes you do everything right and your health insurer doesn't play by the rules.
You know how it works and you followed all the steps, but your insurer has balked. Here are five ways you can prevent claims problems -- and how your employer can help.


HMO members know the drill. Got a sore throat? See your primary care physician (PCP). Need an allergy specialist? Ask your PCP for a referral. Having a cyst surgically removed? You make sure you get your health insurer's prior approval. You understand that if you don't follow your health plan's rules, your claims won't be covered. But sometimes you do everything right and your health insurer still doesn't play by the rules.

For example, you get your plan's permission for surgery. Months after the operation, you get a bill in the mail and discover that your X-rays were read by a radiologist who doesn't participate in your health provider's network of doctors. X-ray claim denied.

Or, your benefits handbook says your insurer fully covers diabetic test strips. But when you go to pick them up, your pharmacist charges you the full price, saying your handbook -- the only one you've ever been given -- must be out of date. Claim denied.

5 ways to prevent claims problems
When you have a group health plan through work, you're not responsible for negotiating your own health-care contract. But you can educate yourself and ask your employer plenty of questions about your group health plan. Unfortunately, the responsibility for payment of a claim falls to the consumer unless the group health contract states otherwise. Here are five steps you can take to help minimize any "claims surprises" like those outlined above.
  1. Never rely on what you think is true about benefits or providers that are covered under your plan -- even if they are stated in your most recent benefits handbook. Always double check whether the benefits, services or providers you need are covered under your plan before you receive treatment.
    You can do this by calling your plan's customer-service department. Remember to take notes. Get the representative's name and write it down, along with the date, time and general substance of your conversation.
    If a claim problem arises and you need to file a grievance, these notes will come in handy. Most insurers' customer-service phone calls are tape-recorded. Having the date and time of your call will make locating your call history with the representative much easier.
  2. Should you have a problem with a claim, call the insurer and ask for an explanation. Again, remember to take detailed notes.
  3. If the explanation is not consistent with your understanding of your health benefits, call or visit the person in your company responsible for benefits administration. Because of their position, they may be able to quickly resolve your problem.
  4. If you have a claim problem that's unresolved, file a grievance with your health plan. If you get a denial, don't give up. In many states, the complaint eventually goes before a grievance committee that's outside the plan, called external review. There's always a chance the denial may be reversed.
    You may also want to complain to the appropriate officials who regulate your health plan. If your health plan is self-funded by your employer, it is regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor.
    Otherwise, your state insurance department regulates your health plan. Your insurance department has a complaint procedure that will trigger an investigation into your problem.
  5. If you discover your providers or benefits have changed and you have not been notified, bring it to the attention of the person in your company responsible for benefits administration. Ask if this situation is covered under the company's contract with your health plan. If it's not, ask how a situation like this will be prevented in the future.
How employers purchase health care
The seeds of some of the most common claims problems are sown when employers purchase health care for their employees, according to Maria K. Todd, president and CEO of HealthPro Consulting Consortium, a private managed-care consulting firm in Aurora, Colo., and a national mediator for managed-care payer-provider disputes.

Todd says most employers use health insurance brokers to whom they give a list of desired benefits. The broker, in turn, identifies insurers that offer affordable plans with those benefits. Once the employer selects an insurer, the broker hands the employer a contract to review and sign.

"But the average human resources director really isn't aware he or she is being given a boilerplate contract that favors the health plan," Todd says.

Written in legalese, the contract generally focuses on which benefits are included and how much they'll cost. Although this is crucial information, what is omitted from the contract is just as important.

Issues for negotiation
There are some health-plan rules that may be negotiated, Todd says, particularly if the employer is large enough to command real bargaining power with the insurer. Yet few employers are aware of this. Some issues that may be open for negotiation include:
  • Who are the providers in the network?
  • What happens when the network loses a provider that threatens the network's adequacy? (If the plan loses its only orthopedic surgeon, will it compensate by paying for its members to see an out-of-network surgeon?)
  • What happens when a new member can't find a network provider who's accepting new patients?
  • How long are provider directories and benefit handbooks good? (For example, if the plan loses 5% or more of its providers, does it have to reprint its provider directory and notify plan members?)
If employers don't negotiate these issues with health insurers in the beginning, there are no guidelines in place for identifying who's responsible if claims problems arise. Todd says that unless the employer has negotiated the finer details of health plan operations matters up front in its contract with the insurance company, the insurer can "pretty much act with impunity" in denying claims and requests for treatment that stem from these contractual issues.

But some say that such detailed negotiations are unrealistic. Richard Coorsh, spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans (formerly the Health Insurance Association of America), says, "In such a competitive marketplace, insurers have to compete on many different levels, including economic," he says. "But insurers also have to retain customers and, in order to do that, they have to be as responsive as possible to their customers."

It's virtually impossible for insurers to negotiate every possible health plan operations scenario in their contracts with employers, Coorsh says, and these contracts may contain too many fine details that might very well impede the insurers from responding flexibly on a case-by-case basis. Besides, he adds, the insurers already have well-defined appeals procedures in place.

However, appeals procedures don't prevent problems from occurring in the first place. If neither your employer nor your insurer has defined who's to blame when your health plan doesn't work the way it should, ultimately, the responsibility falls on you to pay for your treatment.

Tom Curtis: Numerous STRS staff members to testify on Hazel's behalf; WE NEED TO BE THERE

From Tom Curtis, 2/10/06:

I spoke with David Freel of the OEC yesterday. He said he did not want to supercede prosecutor Lara Baker, but felt there was a strong chance that Hazel Sidaway's trial would be postponed again, due to a conflict with the Judge's schedule.

He did however recommend that STRS members should attend when this does go forward, as there will be numerous STRS staff members testifying on behalf of Hazel Sidaway. This should be very interesting. He said it still has not been decided if it will be a jury trial or not. Hazel and her lawyers may call for such, assuming they may have a better chance of showing a reasonable doubt. Anyway, that is what I know about it, so adjust your plans accordingly.

He also indicated that other indictments would be coming out soon, they are just so busy with the Thomas Noe case they all have their hands more then full.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mark Meuser keeps lines of communication open with words of wisdom

From Mark Meuser to Molly Janczyk
Date: Wed, 08 Feb 2006

Thanks again Molly, this time for putting that vita, resume, and reasons for running out there for people to see. Please direct active teachers to find it and vote for me in April. I will keep toes to the fire and toast them if things get like stinky feet at STRS ever again.. I would welcome the challenge and dare some idiots to try to waste OUR MONEY!!! I will never forget that if elected, and want core to toast me if I ever get stinky. THANKS!!! Mark.

From Mark Meuser to Kathie Bracy
February 08, 2006

I appreciated your thoughtful and honest letter and hearing about your specific circumstances. I, too, have great sympathy for retirees who have experienced the large increase in premiums. These same premiums were part of the reason I never seriously considered retiring at 30 years. With two dependents at home, I could not afford it. That is why I support the 2.5% increase for active teachers and school boards. It's also why I think it's so important to do everything possible to maximize the annual interest rate of our investments.

I have learned so much about the workings of STRS in the last two or three months. I know I will have to learn a lot more. If I am elected to the Board, my main concern will be to act as a fiduciary for all members of the system, both active and retired. Although I know there is no way that I could please everyone all of the time, I think it is important to keep the lines of communication open. Thank you for helping me do that.

Dennis Leone: A request for a meeting with OEA President and Executive Committee

From: Molly Janczyk
Sent: Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Subject: Gary Allen: OEA EXEC COMM:Leone requests a meeting with OEA Pres. and Exec Comm.
Gary, OEA Reps: Please inform us as to progress regarding Dennis Leone's request to meet with the OEA Pres. and Exec. Comm. which Conni Ramser and Robert Davis said they presented to you. Dennis is hoping to sit down and clear the air to productively and collaboratively work together on common goals. Leone and Lazares have met with other organizations and commonly travel throughout the state hearing concerns. Such a meeting will only benefit all.
Truth must be the only tool without innuendo and statements made for political purposes which are proven untrue. Never did Leone state anything about eliminating SB190. Buser simply wanted a study which has made us understand it better. Damon Asbury is bewildered as to how the NEW board was accused of this stating STRS said all options had to be examined for costs. Please seriously consider this for your membership and the need for all members of all organizations to see leaders talking, planning and focused on only one goal: benefits for all membership.
Molly Janczyk
OEA-R Lifetime
STRS Retiree
ORTA Lifetime
Upon inquiry to Dennis Leone regarding his presentation of the below info to the STRS Board at the Feb. Retreat, I rec'd this response. Dennis presented this info as Ramser, former OEA Exec. Comm. Member, indicated she had no or little awareness of untrue OEA statements or Leone's report. I sent her that report. I asked Dennis if any progress was reported. Leone presented as following:
From: Dennis Leone
To: Molly Janczyk
Subject: Re: OEA
Date: Wed, 8 Feb 2006
After I said to Davis during the first day of the Retreat regarding my request to meet with OEA Exec. Comm., OEA's Robert Davis said to me (in front of Ramser) that he would share my request with his superiors, which I take to mean Allen. Ramser, on the third and final day of the Retreat, said to me that she had already shared my request with OEA (don't know whom) -- which I took to mean the day before -- but she said to me that she did not know what the response would be. I told her I would like HER to personally help cause such a meeting to occur. I could tell she was uncomfortable with me saying that to her. The last thing I said to her and Billirakis on the third day of the Retreat was my belief that such a meeting will never occur...........I still believe that. Billirakis said to me at the Retreat that he has "tried and tried" in the past to make such a meeting occur, but has not succeeded (his words ). OEA has nothing to lose and everything to gain with such a meeting (like the meeting John Lazares and I had with OFT), but OEA just doesn't seem to see it that way.
Dennis Leone
(Molly): This was from the first email I sent Dennis asking about the documents which I paraphrased following his response:
(Dennis): The document authored by Bill Leibensperger is the second document that I passed out to all of the STRS Board members during the Retreat to illustrate how OEA was communicating false information about STRS. The first one was the January OEA Exec Committee Report authored by NEOEA rep Len Codispoti which stated since the STRS Board no longer has an OEA majority, health insurance was on the STRS chopping block. This statement, as well as Bill L's statement, were lies. The statements clearly were designed to generate new active teacher interest in STRS matters. There isn't a better way to promote Conni Ramser's election......then to say the Board is doing something that it isn't. Smart move, politically, on OEA's part.
So you know, Molly, when I handed these 2 documents to all STRS Board members at the Retreat, I personally informed Ramser and Robert Davis (OEA employee who observes all STRS meetings, including the Retreat) -- together, at the same time -- that I wanted to have a meeting with the OEA Executive Committee. I told both that I also have received communications from active teachers who have said OEA is STILL claiming during local association meetings that my 2003 findings about STRS spending abuses 2003 were "exaggerations." I told both Ramser and Davis that I can produce written proof of this.
In other words -- during the Retreat -- I formally requested a meeting with Allen and the OEA Exec Committee to lay this stuff on the table and clear the air. I told Ramser and Billirakis the next day at the Retreat that I believe the meeting will never occur. I wrote a letter to Allen two months ago and asked him to attend an STRS meeting, He will not respond and apparently will not sit down with me though he has been asked numerous times by many.
Dennis Leone
From: Molly Janczyk
Subject: OEA Article Ohio Schools: 10/05
Subject: STRS and HCA launch member education engagement campaign.
Paraphrased: 'Time for members across the state to come forward and help NEW Board understand concerns regarding affordable HC, stream of revenue for HC and continuation of 35 yr benefit.'
Bill L. adds he and Frost Brooks will help with logistics of participation and testimony.
Central Ohio OEA/NEW Communique:
2 page article by Bill L.; Nov. 2005: SOME quotes:
'Face of the board has changed. No longer an active majority of contributing members and concern that the 3 new "investment experts" created by SB133 might have a more narrow interest than elected board members led to some effective political action in Sept.'
'Having been made aware that the STRS Board would be entertaining a motion that will shape the future of retiree HC Benefits for our members,
18 active and retired OEA members composed testimony that stressed the imp. of the compact bet/ STRS and public school educators for HC and retirement benefits.'............... 'They made a huge impact.'............
'Concern that a NEW STRS board might consider such destructive ideas as repealing SB190 and moving away from a subsidized defined HC benefit for current and retired retirees were allayed for the time being.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Curtis, Speas, Janczyk, Mooney: Conversation on SB 190

Tom Mooney to Molly, Tue, 7 Feb 2006
You are right on target
From Molly Janczyk, Monday, February 06, 2006 Subject: FW: 020606 Curtis Resp To Speas Resp, Re Curtis To All, Age Of Membership In The STRS

I think we all understand SB190 better now and realize to a much more comprehensive degree how it helped retirees as well as actives with nearly = amounts spent for both groups for enhancements. I would not want anything taken from retirees and therefore it is dangerous ground to suggest anything be taken from actives.
The 35 yr incentive seems not to be costing and in fact saving a bit. The unfunded liability was hugely increased as a result of the entire bill. To now say, this part would reduce it or that part would reduce it is most critical to all as any one grp. would be hurt by rollbacks. I would hope no one feels like taking away of what one has. I know Leone has said this as well. Retirees have been devastated by increases of HC with no warning. I would not wish that on anyone AFTER THE FACT of making life decisions with no warning of change. NO ONE deserves that and trying to do so would severely jeopardize retirees if one grp is targeted as it would start a course with results no one wants.
Tom Curtis to Dave Speas; Subject: 020606 Curtis Resp To Speas Resp, Re Curtis To All, Age Of Membership In The STRS Date: Mon, 6 Feb 2006
Hello Dave,
I have gotten no impression that the STRS board is looking at changing anything with SB190. There has been allot of discussion about such, because many do not fully undestand what Buck Consultants presented and what the ramifications of such are. That is only my opinion from what I have been present to hear. Others may have a different view of such.
Tom Curtis
Dave Speas to Tom Curtis, Monday, February 06, 2006, Subject: Re: 020606 Curtis To All, Age Of Membership In The STRS

This is impressive and a loud warning that messing with any of our 1999 increases could be doubly dangerous for those of the oldest years as they retired with so much less. Allowing the legislature to look at anything right now is a dangerous proposition, especially for these folks who benefited the most from the 1999 enhancements by increasing their buying power.

Ralph Lloyd to Conni Ramser: December meeting to plan retreat; some things done in secret?

From: Ralph Lloyd
Sent: Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Subject: STRS
I did not insinuate that is was secret, it was done without board knowledge and I don't care if it was "more of a housekeeping function", it does not tend to BUILD TRUST. In the light of several things that have gone on at the STRS building in the last two to three years, it would seem that BUILDING TRUST IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE.
Ralph L Lloyd
From: Conni Ramser
To: Ralph Lloyd
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2006
Subject: Re: STRS December Meeting
As chair, Dr. Brown sets the agenda, with input from staff and other board members. Setting the agenda is more of a "housekeeping" function. According to policy it is the responsibility of the chair.
Dr. Brown and I met regarding the agenda in December. We discussed having a facilitator with Dr. Asbury.
In January after the board meeting one of the days, we finalized the agenda for the retreat. We were introduced to Craig Rider at that meeting.
I believe the facilitator helped move the agenda along during the retreat.
There was nothing secret about the meeting. Since it was not a full board meeting or even a committee of the board, it wasn't noticed as such. There were no votes or minutes. It was a conversation centered around the topics for the retreat.
From: Ralph Lloyd
To: Connie Ramser
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2006
Subject: STRS December Meeting
I discovered that you and Brown had a secret meeting in December to decide the STRS Winter Meeting agenda and hire a facilitator. These are things that cause people to mistrust you and anyone else associated with that episode. If that had happened among City Counsel personnel or County commissioners they would have been crucified. Maybe you people should be also.
Ralph L Lloyd
LifeOEA-Retired, LifeNEA-retired, Life ORTA, STRS, NEOEA-R, CCOEA-R, OFCA-R(Ohio Fire Chiefs Association)

Tom Mooney, Molly Janczyk: Thoughts on STRS issues

From: Molly Janczyk
Sent: Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Subject: Re: Mooney on Issues: STRS BOARD:
From: Tom Mooney, Tue, 7 Feb 2006
I will get back to you with date.
From Molly, Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Thank you, Tom. I appreciate your thoughts and will forward them. I hope you can plan to speak to CORE sometime this Spring. We 'd love to have you and discuss issues.
Sincerely, Molly
From: Tom Mooney; Subject: Re: 1/30/06: Damon: STRS BOARD: WILL THESE EVER BE DISCUSSED Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2006
A few thoughts...
We are not in favor of making teachers work longer to retire. That will certainly drive more people away from the field. We have very high attrition rates in the first five years. Most people aren't thinking about pensions in those early years, but when they get to where they are paying some attention to that, more will leave if they see the years to retirement getting longer. Too much teacher turnover is bad for students. And, actives will certainly oppose it.
I think we really need to put all our energy into plan A for now. If we sound like 'we know it won't pass so let's go to plan B, then no legislators will take it seriously.
Plan A includes not only increased contributions earmarked for health care, but also some form of tax sheltered health care savings accounts and AGGRESSIVE cost containment, which STRS is still too timid about. There are a number of recommendations from HCA that STRS has not implemented or is moving too slow to implement.
Pooling with other retirement systems to get best rates from insurance carriers is important.
We agree that career educators should get priority, but we must also take into account that women are more likely to leave the work force for periods of time to raise children. I don't think drastic moves in this direction are called for yet.
We don't want to fuel the fires of certain legislators to cut pension or health care benefits. We need time to bring down the funding period and stabilize health care funding.
And, all of us need to put al lot more focus on reforming health insurance nationally. All of the issues we are debating within Ohio and STRS are just band aids. The system is in crisis nationally; the economy can;to stand it much longer. Bush and co. are letting the pharma. cos. and the oil industry bankrupt the rest of the industries as well as the public sector, and the Dems are all too quiet and incoherent.
From: Molly, Tuesday, January 31, 2006; Subject: 1/30/06: Damon: STRS BOARD: WILL THESE EVER BE DISCUSSED
Tom, I have been sending this for 3 yrs. Does OFT feel any of it makes sense?
Damon says on Wed these issues could be discussed. If any of this makes sense, Jeff and Mary Ann can bring it up and or support that which makes sense. IF NONE of it holds ANY value, then what solutions does OFT wish to see addressed? We cannot put all our eggs in the legislative basket-that very one which Dyer and STRS laughed and said, good luck getting legislators to help educators when they feel we retire too young and haven't helped ourselves. Now suddenly, that is IT! Well, maybe a few a listening to Terry B., and Damon etc., but do you think a bill is going to be passed on this issue by the bulk of legislators. I hear they hate OEA or at least some. We need other plans.
Suggestions? Hopefully OFT will present some of this or their own formulated positions. We're desperate out here! Next yr. brings Catastrophic coverage only and that means the same for all of you. We need input and constructive planning for PLAN B and PLAN C should our only PLAN A fail! Respectfully,
Molly J.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A poem rewritten one year ago (with apologies)

Note from John Curry:

It appears that at least one of our newer Board members (educator member) advises that they have never heard of the May 16, 2003 presentation by Dennis Leone re. mismanagement, misspending, and the entitlement mindset that existed within the minds and actions of the "old" STRS Board which was presented TO THE STRS BOARD almost three years ago. If they are telling the truth(?), then they probably never heard this tribute either. Here is Kate's masterpiece again for the sake of posterity. One cannot successfully go forward without appreciating what has happened in history so as not to repeat the same sordid mistakes.
"Cheers for the future once Dennis alights from that horse." -- Conrad Ott, Akron Public Schools Superintendent-Emeritus
From: Kathie Bracy (OK, I confess!!)
Sent: Monday, February 07, 2005
Subject: Dennis Leone's Ride (With apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Dennis Leone's Ride
(With apologies to
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)


Listen my children and I shall intone

Of the midnight ride of Dennis Leone,
On the sixteenth of May, in two-oh-oh-three

And there’s still many a retiree
Who remembers that famous day and tone.


He said to his friends, "If the Board members march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the OEA tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every county’s village and farm,
For the retired folk to be up and to arm."


Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the opposite shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
Like the Somerset, British man-of-war;
Like a phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
Like the huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.


Meanwhile, his CORE friends through alley and street
Wander and watch, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around them they hear
The muster of men at the STRS door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.


Then one climbed the tower of the OEA,
By the gilded stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roof of the Taj,
And the moonlight flowing over all.


Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Dennis Leone.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;

But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the OEA,
As it rose above the streets on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.


A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of retirees was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the city and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.


You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the STRS Old Guard had fired and fled, ---
How the retirees gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the recalcitrants down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.


So through the night rode Dennis Leone;

And so through the night went his cry of alarm

To every county's village and farm, --

A cry of defiance, and not of fear,

A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,

And a word that shall echo for evermore!

For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,

Through all our history, to the last,

In the hour of darkness and peril and need,

The retirees will waken and list to the tone,

The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

And the midnight ride of Dennis Leone.


And now for the tribute to Kate:
In a message dated 2/7/2005 9:59:37 PM Eastern Standard Time, Conrad Ott writes:
Dear Ms. Bracy,
My name is Conrad Ott and I am Superintendent Emeritus of the Akron Public Schools. I also am a member of CORE, and proudly so.
If you are the adapter of Paul Revere's Ride, I wish to salute you. You have put it all into verse that pretty much tells the whole story. Congratulations !
Once Dennis assumes his STRS office, I certainly will ask him to appoint you as the Poet Laureate of CORE. I admire your spirit and your spunk.
Cheers for the future once Dennis alights from that horse. Best wishes for your constructive creativity,
Conrad Ott
Thank you, John and Conrad! (It was Conrad who called Dennis a 'Paul Revere.') I can't believe I even did this! Dennis -- where's your horse? KBB 02/07/06

Monday, February 06, 2006

Molly: Issues for Damon and Board

From Molly Janczyk, February 6, 2006
I have been trying to get the other areas addressed for 3 yrs. Please tell me if these items can be discussed for benefiting retirees and unfunded liability.
Please tell me WHY they cannot be discussed if not, or why they would NOT save money for each point below.
STRS has long told us that legislators are more apt to listen if they see us taking steps to address problems.
By raising retirements ages, increasing years for minimum retirement and using scales to pay for ourselves, we can show we are bearing as much burden as possible.
ANY changes would be for new retirees only far enough from retirement to have ability to make sound decisions, something NEVER afforded current retirees.
How can we hope to attract new educators without benefits and HC?
Could any of these affect unfunded liability enough to help lower it:
1. Percent of pension vs. straight dollar amount for retiree HC. Premiums would be proportionate to affordability. Medicare factored in?
2. 20 yr minimum for all NEW retirees for HC benefits: -access for 15 to 19 only (NEW retirees 5 yrs out; no one already retired or about to retire)
3. Sliding scales for NEW retirees 5 yrs out: (NO current retirees or about to be retired) -higher costs for 20 yr retirees for all medical and RX costs (copays, premiums, out of pockets and RX) with costs decreasing as go up in service credit to 30 or more years with 30 yrs. paying the least in total costs in all areas of medical and RX expenses.
4. AS SOON AS POSSIBLE : GRANDFATHERING RETIREES: SPOUSAL SUBSIDIES: for those who retired before the HC costs soared and spouses were dropped with no prior knowledge or recourse. I know retirees were being told as late as
2000 or 2001 that they'd never have to worry about HC when asked this specific question. I don't know exactly when warnings and proper info began but then all retirees who were close to retiring within a certain period of that should be included in the grandfathering for a % of spousal subsidy to be reinstated.
5. Bonuses for investment staff based on return per advice of Consultants to STRS: If no gain, no bonus! Then percent of bonus equivalent to the earnings made for STRS. For ex. 20% gain = 20% bonus. Bonus range depend on amount earned.
6. Objective and measurable standards ONLY for all raises, bonuses, etc. NO SUBJECTIVE awards, raises, bonuses, etc.
7. The STRS Board voted to stop bonuses for non investment staff and yet it continually is revisited. Bonuses by all other names are still bonuses whether merit, incentive, etc. are tacked to it. COLAS of 3% for all staff annually and step raises at certain junctures IF the individual is performing to OBJECTIVE standards as with educators-every 4 yrs seems fair. The government has steps; educators have steps.

8. Raise the age for FULL retirement/30 yrs or more incrementally as Soc. Sec. did:
xxx• 5 yrs out: 54 yrs old to retire
xxx• 6 yrs out: 55 yrs old to retire
xxx• 7 yrs out: 56 yrs old to retire
xxx• 8 yrs out: 57 yrs old to retire
xxx• 9 yrs. out: 58 yrs old to retire
xxx• 10 yrs out: 59 yrs old to retire
xxx• 11 and more: 60 yrs old to retire

9. NO MORE CONSULTANTS FOR 5 years! We've paid enough consultants and hired enough companies to make decisions. Let's conserve! This is based on comments over the past few years and currently re: this management's style of hiring consultants.
10. Any consideration of change of enhancements of SB190, to NOT affect anyone in the process of receiving or about to receive: IF changes made, grandfather ALL current recipients and all close to making a decision beyond 30 yrs. Such as several years out from 30 yrs. If the 35 yr enhancement earns and does not lose any money for STRS continuing to only affect the unfunded liability by 3 yrs, leave it in place and look only at other enhancements which add nearly 10 additional yrs to unfunded liability. NO MORE TAKING ANYTHING FROM THOSE WHO ALREADY RECEIVE OR ARE CLOSE TO RECEIVING HAVING ALREADY MADE LIFETIME ALTERING DECISIONS.
11. If legislation fails to increase contributions, institute an enforced savings HC plan to offset costs and preserve HC for and benefits will be based on their contribution level. If only voluntary plans acceptable, only contributors will benefit as above.
12. ALL INACTIVES in the system beyond 5 yrs. MUST be paid out by check. Most companies do not allow inactives with a year or a month of work to remain on dockets for payouts to drains their systems. You compare salaries with private and public; compare this area. Inactives must withdraw funds after 5 yrs. Most decided on other careers and the VAST MAJORITY WILL NEVER RETURN TO EDUCATION. Let those careers pay their benefits.
13. It is ludicrous to pay benefits with 5 yrs. of service. They obviously do not need our money. No benefits for anyone with less than 10 yrs and no HC for any unless 20 yrs. 15-19 to have access only HC. REWARD CAREER EDUCATORS! REWARD THOSE WHO WORK LONGER SO THEY WILL WORK LONGER!
DISABILITY is a separate field and not to be included in the above. Those experienced know that area and should make their own suggestions that pertain. I do not pretend to understand their complications through no fault of their own. They should always be protected.

Blogger discovers new trick

Maybe you've already figured this one out, but I never did till just now. I discovered if you double-click on a picture in this blog, you get a nice, enlarged version of it. I found I could drag it into e-mail, or right-click on it for other options, including saving it on my computer (which I don't need to do, since it's already there). Gee, you can even set it as background for your desktop. Wouldn't you love to see STRS artwork every time you turn on your computer? : ) KBB
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