Friday, December 01, 2006

Shirlee Zerkel: Thank you Ms. Ramser

From Shirlee Zerkel, December 1, 2006
Subject: Thank you Ms. Ramser
Thank you for contacting Damon on the request for information about the staff premiums and benefits for 2006 and 2007. I am supposed to receive information in the mail as it was mailed out today along with a copy of a letter Damon supposedly sent to me on November 28th. I never received that letter. At least my requests have suddenly been recognized and I have you to thank for that.
I first asked for the information on Nov. 17, and received very unclear and incomplete information about premiums only. I again requested on 22nd, the 25th, 27th and 28th with no acknowledgement from STRS concerning the situation. I finally emailed Conni Ramser on the situation. I have had many issues with Ms. Knoesel and Mr. Russell concerning health care situations and payment of medical expenses for retirees that exceed the out-of-pocket amounts. A little over a year and one half ago, I tried to help an older couple who had been told by STRS that the claims paid by Aetna were correct. The couple did not have the stamina to deal with the issue and asked me to help.
After the couple had paid their deductible, the outstanding bills were over $20,000 dollars - in network. But STRS told me also that Aetna had correctly figured the payments. But the STRS health care plan book, which is not sent to all retirees, stated a $1,500 out-of-pocket max. This couple should have only paid a total of $2,000 for deductible and out-of-pocket, Yet Mr. Russell and I had many words over the situation. It took me over a year to resolve this with STRS. CareMark is another issue with retirees too.
Dear Board members, the health care services and responses to retiree questions leaves a lot to be desired. It is not as STRS wants you Board members to believe. We retirees should not have to fight for every little benefit we receive. Some are too infirm to fight the fight it takes, so they just shut up and go away. That is what STRS staff wants. You the Board only see the picture they want you to see!
Thanks for listening to me and thanks again to you, Conni.
Shirlee Zerkel
2002 retiree
Life OEA and NEA

Kostyu re: The STRS/Medco court case -- oldie but goodie! A "flashback" with contemporary times!

From John Curry, December 1, 2006: Yes, an oldie but a goodie article. Take particular note of what Dr. Asbury said about STRS being taken to the cleaners: “We have very high performance standards for the vendors we contract with,” said Damon Asbury, interim executive director of STRS. “The audit procedures we have in place to review performance helped to uncover some of the abuses.” So, Damon is aware of what PBM's ARE CAPABLE OF. Now, I think you can see
where CORE's John Bos is coming from in his letter you received earlier today? John
Petro: Medco overcharged STRS millions
The Times-Reporter, Dover-New Philadelphia, OH
December 23, 2003
By PAUL E. KOSTYU, Copley Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS– The state has sued the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager saying it overcharged the State Teachers Retirement System by as much as $50 million over 13 years.

Attorney General Jim Petro sued New Jersey-based Medco Health Solutions on Monday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. The lawsuit contends Medco kept $8.30 per prescription since 1988 that should have gone to the pension fund.

Petro said the company “maliciously demonstrated a complete lack of care and conscious disregard for the rights of STRS Ohio. The corporate culture of Medco encouraged profit above service.”

Three other state pension funds – Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, Ohio School Employees Retirement System and Highway Patrol Retirement System – use Medco as their pharmacy benefit manager.

Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for Petro, recommended they look closely at Medco’s service.

“The allegations are a rehash of what we’ve seen before,” said David Machlowitz, general counsel and secretary of Medco. “We believe the allegations lack merit.”

Medco faces a federal lawsuit filed in Philadelphia in September accusing it of violating federal false claims laws. The company asked a federal judge in that case on Friday to dismiss the suit.

STRS ended its contract with Medco in 2001 when it switched to AdvancePCS Health of Alabama. The change was the result of a competitive bid process and not related to the case, said Laura Ecklar, a spokeswoman for STRS.

The suit claims Medco, which has 3,600 Ohio employees, violated Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices and Deceptive Trade Practices acts, unjustly enriched itself at the expense of STRS, and defrauded the system and its retirees.

“We have very high performance standards for the vendors we contract with,” said Damon Asbury, interim executive director of STRS. “The audit procedures we have in place to review performance helped to uncover some of the abuses.”

Ecklar said the federal and state cases are similar, but the Ohio case is the result of an internal investigation by STRS. That investigation showed Medco overcharged STRS more in mail-order dispensing fees. The overcharges were hidden in reduced rebate payments to STRS.

The STRS audit also showed that Medco charged one-third more for generic drugs filled by mail order than retail pharmacies were charging for the same drugs. Asbury said STRS believes Medco kept the cost difference rather than give it to STRS.

Rebates from pharmacy benefit managers help fund health care benefits for STRS members. Ecklar said any recovery from the suit will be put in the system’s Health Care Stabilization Fund.

Retired teachers reported to STRS that Medco under-counted pills on a regular basis.

Machlowitz said surveys of STRS and the other pension funds show a high level of consumer satisfaction.

“Medco Health prides itself on its integrity,” he said. “We believe we have abided by the letter and spirit of all applicable laws.”

Petro’s complaint alleges Medco employees falsified prescription orders to appear to meet contractual performance guarantees by deleting prescriptions and re-entering them with a different date. That delayed getting prescriptions to STRS members.

The complaint also alleges Medco engaged in the illegal practice of using non-pharmacist personnel to dispense or cancel patient prescriptions without the required review by a licensed pharmacist.

Machlowitz said Medco’s pharmacy practices are inspected regularly by the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy as well as boards in other states.

The federal case accuses the company of altering records to avoid having to pay penalties on late deliveries. It said the company failed to follow laws requiring consultations with doctors about certain prescriptions. It also said Medco pressured doctors to switch patients to drugs made by Medco’s former owner, pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co.

In still other lawsuits, a New Jersey judge dismissed two cases where Medco was accused of making inappropriate claims for co-payments for a particular prescription drug.

A pharmacy benefit manager acts on behalf of employers, including state agencies, pension systems, insurance companies and other health care payers, to get discounts by negotiating prices with drug companies.

Petro hired the law firm of Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley in Cincinnati as special counsel for the suit. Norris said filing the case in Cincinnati was a legal strategy because Petro believes the suit has a better chance at success there. The case could have been filed in any Ohio county.

Sandra Knoesel to Shirlee Zerkel; RE: Still on 2007 health care questions

From Sandra Knoesel/Beth Coffey, December 1, 2006
Subject: RE: Still on 2007 health care questions
Dear Mrs. Zerkel:
Thank you for your patience as we compiled the information you've requested over the last several days about associate health insurance for 2006 and 2007.
In reply to your requests for information about STRS Ohio associate health care premiums and benefits for 2006, a copy of the letter Dr. Asbury sent to you on Nov. 28, 2005, with this information is being mailed via the U.S. Postal Service today. In addition to Dr. Asbury's letter, we're sending copies of the 2006 Benefits Summary he previously provided. Similar information for 2007 health care benefits is also being mailed to you. In the interim, below are replies to your questions/requests about 2007 associate health care. As you know, health care is complex. We hope this additional written information is helpful; however, we are also available by telephone to answer any outstanding questions.
Questions/requests - A less vague list of the premiums for 2007 and a list of the staff health care benefits for 2007; Do the staff for 2007 have a choice of a no deductible policy or one with a deductible? Does the staff have single, employee and spouse, employee and children, and family as choices for 2007?
Reply - For 2007, STRS Ohio associates currently participating in UnitedHealthcare (UHC) will have a choice of which plan they want to participate in: the current no-deductible plan or new deductible plan with lower out-of-network benefits. These associates' premiums will be based on who is covered under a four-tier rate structure. These four tiers include: single; associate plus spouse; associate plus child(ren); or family. The specific rates for the no-deductible plan and new deductible plan have been provided to you under separate cover.
With the deductible plan, if an associate receives services that were subject to the 20% coinsurance for in-network providers (or 40% out-of-network), the associate pays the deductible first and then the coinsurance. The associate is responsible for the coinsurance to the maximum out-of-pocket.
Both plans include an annual "out-of-pocket" maximum. Under the deductible plan, the out-of-pocket maximums for in-network services are $1,000/individual and $2,000/family and do not include the deductible ($500/individual or $1,000/family).
Questions - What is that deductible? Is that deductible for each person on that policy?
Reply - The deductibles are $500/individual and $1,000/family (three or more people) for network providers and $1,000/individual and $2,000/family for out-of-network. The network and out-of-network deductibles accumulate separately during the calendar year and start over the first of each year.
Question - Do staff still get family dental free?
Reply - Dental coverage is an employer-paid benefit for STRS Ohio associates and their dependents.
Beth M. Coffey
Member Resolution Liaison
(614) 227-4031
(888) 227-7877

SOS -- A CRITICAL READ -- Wal-Mart's Generic Prescription Plan: The Connection to Pharmacy Benefit Managers and The Big Drug Chains AND OUR STRS

Note from John Curry: STRS retirees, remember the Ohio STRS vs. Medco case in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court? Please take the time to read the letter below from CORE member John Bos to Dr. Asbury and STRS Member Services Director Gary Russell. PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK FOR THE EXCELLENT ARTICLES CONCERNING PBMs AND THE WALL STREET JOURNAL TO UNDERSTAND WHERE JOHN BOS IS COMING FROM. PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ THIS EMAIL AND ARTICLES in THEIR ENTIRETY AS IT IS CRITICAL TO OUR Rx SITUATION AND YOUR POCKETBOOK. I KNOW THIS IS "HEAVY READING," BUT IT IS REVEALING. THIS DOES INVOLVE OUR SITUATION! Will STRS consider this when they contract with the next PBM? God, I hope so!
From: John Bos
Sent: December 01, 2006
Subject: Seeking Alpha: Wal-Mart's Generic Prescription Plan: The Connection to Pharmacy Benefit Managers and The Big Drug Chains
Please read the entire article!
STRS is mentioned in the comments. They also stated that we should expect a drop in generic costs. Apparently this has not happened at STRS. We can save over $300 with Walmart for the generic drugs in 2007. Goodbye Caremark, Hello Wal-Mart.
In addition, STRS has costs to Caremark beyond our high deductibles. I have said for many months that they (PBM's) are all a bunch of crooks. I stand on my statement. Who is watching the cookie jar and who is assisting the STRS retirees?
The medical costs for my wife and myself (including insurance premiums) is in excess of $14,000 for 2006. This is WITHOUT any hospital admission or emergency room charges. In other words, we had a good medical year.
After reading the correspondence that Shirlee Zerkel has sent requesting associate coverage and premiums, my frustration levels have gone up even higher. How many associates at STRS paid out $14,000 for medical benefits??? You and I both know the answer to that question.
Please read the article!!!!!! PLEASE!!!
John Bos
Thought you might find this article on SeekingAlpha Retail Stocks interesting [also printed below]:

Wal-Mart's Generic Prescription Plan: The Connection to Pharmacy Benefit Managers and The Big Drug Chains

Posted on Sep 22nd, 2006 with stocks: CMX, CVS, ESRX, MHS, WAG, WMT Larry Abrams submits: Consider this quote from a Barbara Martinez article in the Wall Street Journal on May 9, 2006 based on transcripts from an Ohio Teachers suit against Medco Health Solutions (MHS) for breach of fiduciary duty:

"Medco says that after overhead its profit margin on mail-order generic drugs for the retired Ohio teachers was only 23 percent and its total margin, after losses on brand-name drugs, was 1 percent."

In other words, the Big 3 Pharmacy Benefit Managers - Medco, Express Scripts (ESRX) and Caremark (CMX) - have been cross subsidizing low to nil margins on mail order brands, and no general management fees, with high margins on mail order generics.

Furthermore, the Big 3 PBMs basically set the price of their retail competitors -- Walgreen (WAG) and CVS (CVS) -- an example of conflict of interest and self-dealing if there ever was one.

Wal-Mart (and for that matter Costco) know of this cross-subsidy and do not need high margin generics to cross-subsidize other lines (eg. mail order brands for PBMs and the front store operations of WAG and CVS).

The pressure for better prices on generics will come from plan sponsors that contract out to PBMs -- the United Healthcare (UNH), the Blues, Principal, Humana, GM, Ford, IBM, Medicare, Medicaid.

This will force PBMs to respond by reducing their margins on mail order generics, will force WAG-CVS to do likewise at retail, and to make up the shortfall with higher prices elsewhere (management fees, mail order brand margins for PBMs, and front store margins for WAG and CVS)

That is the connection between the Wal-Mart (WMT) announcement and its effect on stock prices of other drug supply chainers.

Screw Them Retar'd Suckers!!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Beth Coffey: A response to Shirlee Zerkel

Shirlee re: Beth Coffee's response, November 30, 2006
Subject: Didn't like to be told information was not sufficient
Sandy did email me on Nov. 17 just after my email to her requesting preventive care list that was on the website. At that time I also asked for the 2007 staff premiums and benefits. A couple of days later I received an email from Coffey stating that the information was sent, but no mention of which. On the 26th I did receive a confusing chart of premiums for 2007 -- no benefits listed. Later I received a chart of the 2006 premiums and nothing else. I asked for both benefits and premiums. The benefits are the big part of any policy. I guess that Beth and Sandy did not like my continued requests. She is a bit testy here, don't you think.
What are they doing to the charts to doctor them up. That information should be readily available as it was given to all staff members. When I made the request, all they had to do was pick one up and put it in an envelope, address and send! How hard is that! What are they hiding.
I guess I got under their skin.
Beth Coffey to Shirlee Zerkel, November 30, 2006
Subject: RE: I am asking for assistance!
Mrs. Zerkel:
I wanted to give you a status update on your request for additional information about associate insurance. I am sorry that our attempts to supply the information you requested have not met your expectations. Although Sandy Knoesel has been out of the office during the time your requests were received, staff sent responses to two of your five requests within a day of receiving your request.
Your third, fourth and fifth requests indicate that information was not helpful. Today Ms. Knoesel has returned to the office and is reviewing the specific information you requested and compiling a complete response. Ms. Knoesel will respond to you this week which will be within 3-4 days of your latest requests. As you may realize, in addition to responding to your requests, we've been responding to many other members and retires too.
Beth M. Coffey
Member Resolution Liaison
(614) 227-4031
(888) 227-7877

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A "thinking" STRS retiree

From Laura Reed, November 29, 2006
Subject: Laura Reed Writes:
Until 1985 I was not at all interested in any kind of politics. I voted like my parents and grandparents voted before me. I believed in what I was told -- because I assumed that everyone had my best interest at heart.
Then, I found that I would not get my benefits that I had been promised from Social Security for my husband's 40 years of work. Then I found that I would not receive health care for life; then I found that my retirement money was going to people who were "living high on the hog" at my expense. Suddenly over the past 20 years it has dawned on me that "one must be responsible for one's own self" and I began to take an interest in what was going on (especially when it had to do with my retirement).
I have worked very hard for 20 years to try and get the Offset/Windfall Provisions repealed (don't believe I had any support from OEA, OEA-R, ORTA etc. NEA has worked hard (Carrie Lewis is doing a great job). When I phoned ORTA I was told a few years back that they did not have time to work on "things like that".
Well, then Dennis Leone (thank goodness for thinking men) found out what was going on at STRS -- and I worked constantly getting support for him. I am in strong support of Dr. Leone and John Lazares -- and I am certain there must be a few others who are "thinking" people (I am just not aware of who they are -- I can't judge by some of the voting that is going on).
I have been asked by many people in my area to run for the STRS Board. My answer is always "I do not have the qualifications" -- I can only work for those who do have the qualifications -- When Board members vote to pay legal fees for those STRS staff (who could have used free services) I wonder "why?" So many ill-thought-out votes make me wonder "why"? When a certain woman tries to make people "Shut up" -- I wonder "why?"
So then I get out my pen and paper and I start again to be "political". And I laugh when I hear some person say "Don't make me come up there!" I am 73 and I can finally say what I think (until a few years ago I was afraid I would offend someone or hurt someone's feelings) -- HUM! I am asking each person on the Board to stop and think "What is fair to everyone concerned" -- "Is it true" -- "Will it benefit all concerned -- and my own little thought "Would your Mama be proud of you?"
Thanks for the time that it took to read my ramblings -- just stop and think and ask yourselves "Am I on the Board for my own benefit or am I on the Board to benefit the retired people who have worked so very hard and long for their benefits?" -- May God Bless each one of you and help you to adjust your thinking! Thanks Dr. Leone and John Lazares for being the guys in the "white hats"!
Laura J. Reed

Columbus Dispatch: Parity for mental health? GOP now backing effort to widen insurance coverage

Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Jim Siegel
Ohio Republican legislative leaders, reversing more than 15 years of opposition, said yesterday that they are ready to pass a bill requiring health-insurance plans to offer the same coverage for mental illnesses as they do for physical ailments.
House Speaker Jon A. Husted, RKettering, and Senate President Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland, in the past had not shown much support for the measure, and Harris said he remains concerned about the potential cost to businesses.
But with just three weeks to go before the likely end of this General Assembly, and with a new Democratic governor waiting in the wings, GOP leaders said concerns have been neutralized enough to allow Ohio to become the 38 th state to enact the law, commonly known as mental-health parity.
It’s unknown whether Gov. Bob Taft would sign the bill, but proponents are encouraged by the change of heart among Republican lawmakers.
"I am very pleased that they changed their position," said Rep. Jon Peterson, a Delaware Republican and sponsor of the parity bill in the House. "The fact that leadership is supporting the issue now says we have moved past the tip- ping point."
Supporters argue that it’s unfair and discriminatory for many health-insurance plans to offer less coverage for a mental illness such as schizophrenia than a physical ailment such as Parkinson’s disease, though each is related to unusual levels of dopamine in the brain.
But business and insurance opposition has been strong. Republican legislative leaders, dating back years before Husted and Harris came to power, have blocked the bill.
In recent years, many thought a majority of House and Senate members would vote for it if given the chance. A Dispatch survey of lawmakers this summer found that 63 percent supported the bill.
Yesterday, Sen. Steve Stivers, R-Columbus, chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, said that while he’s not a fan of the bill, there are enough votes to pass it out of committee. He said he was waiting for the go-ahead from Harris.
Less than two hours later, Harris said, "If the committee (next week) has the votes to pass it, I expect it to pass out of the committee and have it on the floor."
Still unknown is whether Taft would approve the bill; for three years he has threatened to veto insurance-mandate bills.
Harris and Husted said yesterday that they thought Taft, a Republican, could now support mental-health parity, and Husted even said Taft had sent him a letter a few months ago indicating that fact.
But Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said the office doesn’t recall such a letter.
"We have not been made aware that the concerns of the business community have been addressed," he said. "The governor’s position has not changed."
Harris said he now supports the bill but still doesn’t like that it fails to affect larger, self-insured employers who, under federal law, are exempt from state insurance mandates. He also worries that cost increases could force some small businesses to drop health insurance, though the bill provides an opt-out provision if costs increase more than 1 percent.
"The only way we find that out is to pass it, and if it does, we’ll have to address it in the future," he said.
Each chamber has identical bills, though House officials said they expect the Senate to make the first move. The House passed the same bill in February 2004, but it died in the Senate when the session ended on Dec. 31 of that year.
Peterson and Sen. Robert F. Spada, R-North Royalton, reintroduced the bill in 2005. Spada’s son, James, a senior credit analyst with Bank of America, testified yesterday about his success despite being bipolar.
"Success and mental illness can go together, if given the correct amount of attention, support and care," James Spada told a Senate committee.
Health insurance for state employees already includes equal mental-health coverage.
Husted, who voted against mental-health parity in 2004, said yesterday that advocates spent time explaining the real financial effect of the bill.
"I’ve had several conversations on this and I felt that we had been able to allay some concerns and some of the business objections to this," he said. "If those hold, there is something we can pass this year."
Small-business owners continue to argue that another insurance mandate would drive up already high health-care costs. They also say the proposal is unfair because it does not apply to all companies.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses/Ohio estimates the bill would affect coverage offered to about onethird of Ohio workers.
"This unconscionable bill targets the small-business community when health insurance has been the No. 1 concern since 1986," said Ty Pine, state director for the federation.
Pine has offered Senate leaders a list of changes for the bill, but Stivers said they would either gut the bill or make it unaffordable for the state. However, he said, changes to the bill are possible.
Gov.-elect Ted Strickland, a former prison psychologist, strongly supports the measure.
"This is an issue that I have been concerned about for decades, and I’m interested in watching what the legislature chooses to do," he said.
Dispatch reporter Mark Niquette contributed to this story.

Another push brewing to repeal GPO/WEP

Ann Hanning to Molly Janczyk, November 29, 2006
Subject: [Fwd: RE: Time to Re-Energize Our Social Security Coalition?]
Molly, ORTA continues to work with ASRTE and other groups on the repeal of the GPO/WEP.
Jim Kreider to Ed Ely, November 28, 2006
Subject: RE: Time to Re-Energize Our Social Security Coalition?
Dear Ed
Amen! I believe we need to coordinate a day in late Feb or early March. We are meeting in DC in Late Feb. Should we meet first as a group? Should we reconsider hiring a lobbyist? We need to push this now! THANK YOU for again taking the lead. I appreciate you. Lead me, counsel me, Missouri is ready for a fight.
Jim Kreider Executive Director
Missouri Retired Teachers Association & Public School Personnel
3016 DuPont Circle, Suite B
Jefferson City, MO 65109
Phone: 877-366-6782
From Ed Ely, November 27, 2006
Subject: Time to Re-Energize Our Social Security Coalition?
Hello, All--
With the Democrats gaining control of Congress, it seems like an opportune time to re-form our coalition to push for the repeal of the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset penalties in Social Security. We have been assured by Representatives Howard "Buck" McKeon and Howard Berman that they will be re-introducing their repeal legislation in the 110th Congress. As you know, their current repeal bill in the Congress
(HR147) has garnered 326 co-sponsors but has been blocked from any consideration by the Republican leadership of the House.
At the very least, I believe we should perhaps organize another coordinated e-mail and letter writing campaign when the new bill is introduced, and we should develop a new joint letter that all our groups can sign on to. This is also a good opportunity to brainstorm other ideas to finally push this issue forward. I might note that repeal was a plank in the Democrats 2004 election platform.
Hope to hear from you all in the next week or so; I know it's busy during the holiday season. Thanks.
Ed Ely
Director of Communications
California Retired Teachers Association
P.O. Box 2640
Fair Oaks, CA 95628
(916) 966-5933
(916) 966-5944 (fax)
Click here to see how you may be affected by GPO/WEP.
Click here to see what NEA is doing about it.

Conni responds to Shirlee

Conni Ramser to Shirlee Zerkel, November 29, 2006
I forwarded your request to Dr.Asbury.

Shirlee to Conni: I am asking for assistance!

Shirlee Zerkel to Conni Ramser, November 29, 2006
Subject: I am asking for assistance!
Dear Ms. Ramser:
I have contacted Ms. Sandra Knoesel five times and have asked for information concerning the STRS staff health care premiums and benefits for the year 2006 and also for 2007. I have only received unclear charts on the premiums and NO Benefits listed. That is part of health care. I know that this is public knowledge and in past years, I have received the information.
I ask for your assistance in the receiving of this information from Ms. Knoesel.
Thank you for your help,
Shirlee Zerkel

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Community schools fare far below publics

Distributed by:
November 28, 2006
Students in a large majority of community schools are performing at a level "unequivocally below" the performance of those in traditional public schools, a Miami University study shows.
( - Researchers Lawrence Sherman, professor of educational psychology, and Richard Hofmann, professor emeritus of educational leadership at Miami, performed a statistical analysis using comparisons based on variables reported in the 2004-2005 school building report cards of Ohio’s 609 school districts (3,412 school buildings) and 129 community schools. The report cards are the schools’ means of accountability to meet federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) achievement mandates.
Until 2004-2005, charter schools and voucher schools were separate entities; the state of Ohio refers now to both as “community schools.” This converts the schools to autonomous school districts that, as of the 2004-2005 school year, must conform to the demands of NCLB, say Sherman and Hofmann. This change also facilitates comparative analyses of the schools.
Indicators of performance include attendance rates, graduation rates, proficiency and achievement tests performance. Within the state’s designations, data are based on school building performance, as opposed to district performance.
Among the researchers’ findings: Sixty percent of community schools and about 6 percent of traditional schools are in the state’s “academic emergency” category. About 46 percent of community schools and 4 percent of traditional schools met 10 percent or fewer state standards.
Twenty five percent of traditional and 2 percent of community school are rated “excellent,” with the same percentages achieving 90 percent or more of standards. Among other comparative performance markers, the researchers graphed the performance index for school buildings, which is an overall indicator of how well a school is doing on all evaluative criteria used by the state. They found 75 percent of community schools’ scores would be at the 10th percentile if grouped with traditional schools.
Attendance rates were generally higher in traditional schools. Seventy-five percent of traditional schools had graduation rates above 90 percent. Seventy-five percent of the community schools’ graduation rates were below 80 percent.
“If alternative schools are the choice, our data suggest for the most part they’re not a good choice right now,” says Sherman. “Perhaps the options are not what they seem.”

Shirlee Zerkel to Sandra Knoesel: Fifth request for information

From Shirlee Zerkel, November 28, 2006
Subject: staff health care plan
I have requested information of complete premiums and benefits for health care for the staff of STRS. Yesterday was my fourth request; this is my fifth. I did not even get an answer that the material will be forthcoming this time. It was probably presented to the employees together and it took time to separate the premiums from the benefits. I want both!
Shirlee Zerkel

RH Jones: For profit private schools -- Where Children come second

From RH Jones, November 28, 2006
For profit private schools -- Where Children come second
To all:
The following thought-provoking article appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal, 11/23/06, Editorial page B3, "Letter to the Editor" by David Spondike of Copley Township, Ohio. He wrote and I quote:
Where children come second
To those considering private schools: Perhaps with the exception of some religious or privately funded schools, most private schools are involved with a profit-making entity. One of the most prominent examples is charter-school owner David Brennan.
Businesses, by definition, must make profit their first and ultimate priority. They use service to humanity to facilitate that primary priority. This means that parents who place their child in a school where there is a profit motive are guaranteed that the child will be second in priority at best.
What parent who wants the best for his or her child would put the child in such a situation -- by definition, guaranteed not to be the first priority?
This is what public education allows. It allows the children of the community to ultimately be placed first in the priorities of the school. For-profit schools cannot do this. Public schools do. Test results show that the public schools are where children come first. It is where we can find the largest pool of expertise in the field of education. Society has a moral obligation to create a successful public school system.
Follow the money. There's a single week in October when the state conducts a student census. This census determines to which school the $8,000-plus in state funding will be sent for each student. After that week, the private school can expel the hard-to-teach-student and keep the money.
Now the public school must enroll that student and get him or her to pass the state proficiency exam with $0. And people wonder why those schools are underfunded and having such a hard time educating their students.
Remember this simple fact regarding the inherent difference in priorities between public and for-profit education the next time you read one of Brennan's letters wherein he whines that he is being treated unfairly.

David Spondike
Copley Township

Monday, November 27, 2006

Shirlee to Sandra: Another request for staff HC information

From Shirlee Zerkel, November 27, 2006
Subject: Need more information!
Dear Ms. Knoesel:
I have asked for both 2007 and 2006 STRS staff premiums and benefits for Health Care. That is not what I received. Today for 2006, I received the total monthly cost and the staff co-pay for single and family -- NO BENEFITS! For 2007 I received an even more confusing chart with total monthly costs and staff co-pays for both a no deductible and a deductible plan -- NO BENEFITS!
Let me ask again! PLEASE sent me the premiums and benefits for STRS staff for both 2006 and 2007. I want the complete information. What is so hard about answering more than one question place in the same email?
Shirlee Zerkel

RH Jones: Why be a teacher?

From RH Jones, November 27, 2006
The PERI NewsletterR, 4th Quarter, 2006
To all:
The PERI NewsletterR, 4th Quarter '06, front page quote of Mr. Blake Sherry, the Chief Operating Officer of OPERS:
" overview of the makeup and financial status of the retirement system:
. membership of 381,000 active employees and 152,000 benefit recipients
71 million in assets
. 9.03% return on investments this year
. 89% fully funded
. health care solvency of 18 years
the 16th largest pension system in the United States."
(End Quote)
My thinking: Why got to college to be a teacher? You can, for example, work for the highway department and get a better pension.
RHJones, Proud to the CORE

STRS Board members' credit card expenditures 2004 - 2006: Damon's report to John Curry

American Express

Board Member Activity

Charges Posted January 1, 2004 through October 20, 2006

(Headings for items listed below: Board Member; Item(s) Purchased; Business Purpose; Amount)

January 2004

Norris; Transportation; Board Retreat Meetings; 26.78

Puckett; Membership; Credit Card access; 35.00

Scott; Meal; Committee & Board Meetings; 36.34

February 2004

Norris; Membership; Credit Card access; 35.00

Puckett; Conference registration; IFEB – Retirement Plan Basics/Choice Based Benefits 1,550.00

Puckett; Conference meals; IFEB – Retirement Plan Basics/Choice Based Benefits; 222.91

Puckett; Conference lodging; IFEB – Retirement Plan Basics/Choice Based Benefits; 859.94

Scott; Meals; Committee & Board Meetings; 58.93

March 2004

Jack Chapman; Newspaper subscription; NY Times Quarterly Subscription; 63.70

Scott; Meal; Committee & Board Meetings; 13.58

April 2004

Norris; Conference Registration; Chicago Health & Welfare Plan Management; 1,145.00

Norris; Conference lodging; Chicago Health & Welfare Plan Management; 963.07

Norris; Meal; Business Dinner; 40.32

Norris; Meal; Representing STRS @ OEA Rep Assembly; 45.88

Scott; Meal; Representing STRS @ OEA Rep Assembly; 41.64

May 2004

Norris; Conference registration; Cancelled – Chicago Health & Welfare Plan Management; (945.00)

Norris; Conference lodging; Cancelled – Chicago Health & Welfare Plan Management; (938.07)

Puckett; Conference registration; IFEBP – Financial & Investment Planning Basics; 1,550.00

Scott; Meals; Committee & Board Meetings; 92.00

Scott; Lodging; Healthcare Roundtable Discussion; 166.00

Scott; Meal; Healthcare Roundtable Discussion; 10.00

June 2004

Jack Chapman; Newspaper subscription; NY Times Quarterly Subscription; 63.70

Norris; Meal; Business Lunch; 15.25

Scott; Meals; Committee & Board Meetings; 83.40

July 2004

Norris; Meals; Chicago – D.C.; 224.28

Norris; Lodging; Chicago – D.C.; 341.46

Norris; Transportation; Chicago – D.C.; 394.18

Scott; Membership; Credit Card access; 55.00

August 2004

Jack Chapman; Newspaper subscription; NY Times Quarterly Subscription – Cancelled; (50.20)

Puckett; Conference meals; IFEBP – Financial & Investment Planning Basics; 175.29

Puckett; Lodging; IFEBP – Financial & Investment Planning Basics; 633.17

Scott; Meals; Committee & Board Meetings; 58.00

September 2004

Scott; Meal; Committee & Board Meetings; 25.00

October 2004

Billirakis; Membership; Credit Card access; 55.00

Puckett; Conference meals; Opal Financial Conference; 146.19

Puckett; Lodging; Opal Financial Conference; 807.86

Scott; Meals; Committee & Board Meetings; 35.00

November 2004

Billirakis; Airfare; Committee & Board Meetings; 183.20

Puckett; Lodging deposit; IFEBP Certificate Series – Employee Benefits; 228.58

Scott; Meals; Committee & Board Meetings; 39.35

December 2004

Puckett; Conference registration; IFEBP – Employee Pensions Conference – Part I & II; 1,590.00

Scott; Meals; Committee & Board Meetings OEA-RA; 83.74

January 2005

Puckett; Membership; Credit Card access; 55.00

Scott; Meal; Committee & Board Meetings; 13.00

February 2005

Puckett; Conference meal; IFEBP Certificate Series – Employee Benefits; 43.29

Puckett; Conference lodging; IFEBP Certificate Series – Employee Benefits; 914.32

Scott; Meal; Committee & Board Meetings / FRC Seminar; 20.74

March 2005

Puckett; Conference meals; IFEBP Certificate Series – Employee Benefits; 146.64

Puckett; Phone; IFEBP Certificate Series – Employee Benefits; 25.97

Scott; Meals; Committee & Board Meetings; 40.00

April 2005

Scott; Meal; Presenting STRS reports @SWOEA; 14.58

May 2005

Scott; Meals; Presenting STRS reports @ SWOEA; 72.20

Scott; Meals; Committee & Board Meetings; 55.64

June 2005

Ramser; Membership; Credit Card access; 55.00

Scott; Meals; Committee & Board Meetings; 84.94

July 2005

Ramser; Conference lodging; CAPPPs & Benefits Conference; 588.28

Scott; Membership; Credit Card access; 55.00

September 2005

Puckett; Conference meals; IFEBP – Employee Health – Part I & II; 92.03

Puckett; Parking; IFEBP – Employee Health – Part I & II; 125.00

Ramser; Transportation; CAPPP’s II – Health; 48.00

Scott; Membership; Cancelled – Credit Card access; (55.00)

October 2005

Puckett; Conference meal; IFEBP – Employee Health – Part I & II; 34.80

Puckett; Conference lodging; IFEBP – Employee Health – Part I & II; 952.05

Ramser; Conference lodging; CAPPP’s II – Health; 515.85

November 2005

Billirakis; Membership; Credit Card access; 55.00

January 2006

Jeff Chapman; Membership; Credit Card access; 55.00

Flannagan; Membership; Credit Card access; 55.00

Puckett; Membership; Credit Card access; 55.00

March 2006

Jeff Chapman; Meals; Committee & Board Meetings; 36.79

Jeff Chapman; Conference lodging; Int’l Foundation CAPPP Pension & Benefits Conf; 792.90

Jeff Chapman; Conference meals/Internet access; Int’l Foundation CAPPP Pension & Benefits Conf; 159.94

Jeff Chapman; Parking; Int’l Foundation CAPPP Pension & Benefits Conf; 48.00

Flannagan; Conference Lodging; Int’l Conference – Public Pension & Employee Benefits; 792.90

Flannagan; Conference meals; Int’l Conference – Public Pension & Employee Benefits; 66.70

April 2006

Jeff Chapman; Meal; Committee & Board Meetings; 13.43

Puckett; Conference meals; IFEBP – Int’l Foundation Basic Compensation Conference; 144.11

Puckett; Conference lodging; IFEBP – Int’l Foundation Basic Compensation Conference; 785.89

Puckett; Parking; IFEBP – Int’l Foundation Basic Compensation Conference; 75.85

May 2006

Jeff Chapman; Meals; Committee & Board Meetings; 63.52

Ramser; Membership; Credit Card access; 55.00

June 2006

Jeff Chapman; Meals; AFL-CIO ETI Workshop; 20.17
Jeff Chapman; Lodging; Committee & Board Meetings; 111.00
Jeff Chapman; Meal; Committee & Board Meetings; 19.33
Flannagan; Lodging; Committee & Board Meetings; 99.00
Ramser; Lodging / Parking; Committee & Board Meetings; 94.50

July 2006

Ramser; Conference registration; Nat’l Council on Teacher Retirement; 600.00

August 2006

Ramser; Conference registration – cancelled; Nat’l Council on Teacher Retirement; (600.00)

(September 2006 and October 2006 figures were not included in this report, as indicated in the heading.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
To see John Curry's original request for information (10/30/06),click here. You will also see jpg copies of Damon's response (11/22/06). The above information was taken from this source. KBB

Minutes of CORE meeting, November 16, 2006

From Glenna Barr, November 26, 2006
Dave Parshall, CORE President, called the CORE meeting to order November 16,2006 in the Sublett Room at STRS. The officers and trustees in attendance were; Dave Parshall,President; Mary Ellen Angeletti, Vice President; Glenna Barr, Secretary; Molly Janczyk, substituting for C.J. Myers, Treasurer; Board of Trustees: Nancy Hamant, Betty Bell, Lloyd Knudsen, substituting for Chuck Chapman, Tom Cooper, substituting for Nancy Boomhower, and Glenna Barr, substituting for Chuck Angeletti.
The Agenda was follows:
1. Reading of the minutes and one correction was made. It was to thank Chuck Angeletti, Dave Parshall, and John Curry for the Uncle Sam picture on the e-mail website. The minutes were approved by all. Paul Boyer made a motion to have copies of the minutes to pass out at the meeting so all could review them, all the present would have to do is approve and not have the secretary read the minutes. Molly Janczyk seconded the motion., A discussion was held and it was decided that the secretary would have 5 copies at the meeting for people who do not have a computer or are having computer problems where the minutes are posted on e-mail and our blog. All approved the motion.
2. The treasurer's report was given. The accounts have been transferred into the new treasurer's name, C.J. Myers, Dave Parshall and Chuck Angeletti's names are on the accounts. Dave Parshall has the key. The amount was given in the treasury. If you wish to know the amount, please contact Dave Parshall or C.J. Myers.
3. Committee Reports:
Website: Dave Parshall stated the information about STRS CD recording of the STRS meetings is on the CORE website, or
Contacts of Regional Reps: Molly Janczyk gave the report and stated she had been trying to get contacts for Dist.9. Tom Curtis volunteered to be the Dist. 9 Rep.
Damon Asbury Meeting: Dave Parshall reassured Damon we would continue meeting with him. All the questions were answered. These questions were put on the e-mail pipeline and the blog. Since this meeting more changes have been made different from the meeting with Damon. Dave did not go into detail about this.
4. Old Business:
Regarding Article 9 of the Constitution, Ryan Holderman is on the Constitution Committee and will have a written report to present at the CORE Meeting in January or February to vote on if or when CORE were to be dispersed, who or where will the treasury money will go. A discussion was held and suggestions given. No motion was made.
5. New Business:
Dennis Leone gave Dave Parshall information on the credit cards issued to STRS board members. He stated the remaining credit cards have been turned in. A discussion was held as to disclosing of board expenditures. Board member travel expenses were questioned by Dave. This issue is not going to die at STRS. Damon is to e-mail John Curry on some misconceptions made in the meeting. A full report on the guidelines on the board expenditures and credit cards are to be given to Dave. If Dave has not heard from Damon by the 2nd of December, Dave will call him. Nancy Hamant suggested that Dave keep a paper trail of Damon's contacts on this subject. Dennis Leone, Dave Parshall, Mary Ellen Angeletti, John Lazarus, and Tom Mooney will meet monthly to get updates on STRS events. Lloyd Knudsen stated we need more speakers at the STRS meeting to get out our various viewpoints on all subjects of importance to CORE members. Nancy Hamant suggested we ask Richard Cordray, newly elected State Treasurer, to send a rep to the STRS meetings and do the same to Marc Dann, newly elected Attorney General, about his appointment to the board. Damon Asbury is to approve administrative expenses. He can pay expenditures and has a line item approval up to the cap of $100,000 between STRS meetings. Another discussion was held on contacting Jon Husted and Bill Harris, leaders in the State House and Senate, on board appointee. STRS agreed to record the meetings on CD's. Anyone can request a CD of the meetings and they are free. Send your request to Joyce Baldwin at STRS, call her, or e mail her at Nancy Hamant stated the 5% active teacher contribution is now a bill but has no sponsors. Ann Hanning, ORTA Executive Director, discussed ORTA's sponsored Lobby Day, April 24,2007. Read about this event on ORTA's website or in their spring Quarterly. Also attending the meeting was Herschell Grimm of OFT and Lou DiOrio of ORTA. The meeting was adjourned at 1:00 PM. The next meeting will be on December 14, 2006 in the Sublett Room at STRS.
Submitted by Glenna Barr, Secretary

Sunday, November 26, 2006

John Curry: Night Before Christmas 2003

Below is an STRS Christmas story from 2003. Many of the actors mentioned below have "left (or will be leaving) the STRS scene," and not by choice! Would some of you take up the challenge to rewrite a 2006 version in time for the holiday festivities? Presently, I have my hands full working 40+ hours a week and doing research - in short, I am putting out a request for assistance. John

Night Before STRS Christmas


“T'was the night before Christmas, when all through the STRS house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a louse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care;

In hopes that more bonuses soon would be there;

The board members were all nestled snug in their beds,

While visions of more entitlements danced in their heads;

And Betty in her ‘kerchief, and Jimmy in his cap,

Had just settled their brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

Jimmy sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window he flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters while stumbling over cash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave luster of mid-day to the “bennies” below,

When, what to his wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature bank account, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be Gov. Dick.

More rapid than eagles his spenders they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

‘Now Michael! Now, Jackie! Now Debbie and Gene!

On, Joey! On Hazel!, on Herbie and Stephen!

Now spend away! Spend away! Spend away all!

As plastic credit cards that before the wild investigation fly,

When they meet with a question, maybe they lie;

So up to the Palace (95 mil.) the spenders they flew,

With a bank account of full of money, and Gov. Dick, too.

And then, in a twinkling, he heard on the roof

The spending and traveling of each little goof.

As he drew in his head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney Gov. Dick came with a bound,

He was dressed in OEA garb, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all garnished with airline tickets and soot.

A bundle of bennies he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a bureaucrat, all dressed in his black.

His eyes-how they twinkled! His vetoes how merry!

His promises were like hollow, any investigation he would bury!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

His control over the Ethics Commission we’ll all never know!

The stump of a subpoena he held in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a poker face and a little round belly,

That shook when he governed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, all clever and shrewd,

And just removed enough to stay away from the feud.

A wink in his eye and the ink in his pen,

Would insure that the retirees' plight wouldn’t end.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

He controlled his legislative puppets, just like a jerk,

He sprang to his sleigh, to his cronies he gave a whistle,

And they all flew away like down on a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

“I’ve got to stop in San Francisco before the end of the night.

Merry Christmas retirees, I love you! -- And-Happy New Year!”

Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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