Saturday, January 13, 2007

Molly Janczyk: Keep writing your legislators re: health care legislation

From Molly Janczyk, January 12, 2007
Subject: Health Care (HC) legislation
The Springfield paper ran an article recently which I cannot forward. It stated the following regarding the importance of passing HC legislation HB707.
Without HC legislation, employees will have to work longer due to higher HC costs in retirement. This translates to higher health care costs and higher salaries to school districts/employers. HC legislation helps employers manage their workforce, payroll and HC costs better saving the districts, employers, colleges and universities.
Please continue to write your own legislators asking if they support the HC legislation written by HCA's. If not, why not? State clear and professional arguments for HC legislation as stated above. Other important issues are attracting and keeping quality educators to Ohio.
• Without secure retirements with HC, educators will enter other fields offering better benefits.
• Properly fund education in Ohio according to 4 court orders. This could possibly free up monies which could be redirected for increased contributions which have been stagnant for years not meeting inflation or employee needs.
• Ask your school boards what is more important, keeping quality educators or failed programs, wasteful consultants, too many top level administrators, etc.
• Someone has to pay: If retirees cannot afford HC, more will rely on ER's unable to pay HC premiums or medical and RX costs. The state will eat much of these costs and have to put retirees on payment plans spreading out the payments vs. larger reimbursements from insurance.
Feel free to edit and adapt these points into your own letter to your legislators. Thank you.
Molly J.

GPO/WEP repeal not dead

From John Curry, January 13, 2007
Ohio retired (and active) educators, police, firefighters, and other Ohio public servants. We, as well as other well-deserved public servants will have had or will have 2/3 of our earned Social Security retirement payments stripped from our hands by the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision that is once again seeing a bi-partisan challenge by some understanding and well-meaning U.S. House of Representative members. Although the news release below does not mention Ohioans, we too are adversely affected by this grossly unfair provision. I would urge you to write your U.S. Representative and encourage him or her to join with Rep. Berman and Rep. Howard McKeon's push to eliminate this grossly unfair provision of Social Security. Please encourage your professional organization to also issue a statement of policy to your Representative re. the above topic. I have included a link below to obtain the address of your Representative. "Snail mail" letters are the most effective means of seeing that your message gets through. John
Here's the link to access your U.S. House of Representative member:
For Immediate Release January 4, 2007
Reps. Berman, McKeon Introduce the Social Security Fairness Act
Washington, D.C. - Congressmen Howard L. Berman (CA-28) and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (CA-25) today introduced the Social Security Fairness Act, legislation that would completely repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).
"Thousands of dedicated firefighters, police officers, teachers, and other public servants are deprived of a portion of their Social Security benefits each year as a result of the onerous Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision," said Rep. McKeon. "These two provisions must be completely repealed so that our nation's most dedicated public servants can receive, in full, the Social Security benefits that they have rightfully earned throughout the course of their careers. I look forward to once again working with my good friend and colleague, Rep. Berman, in the 110th Congress to pass this legislation and secure meaningful reform to America's Social Security system."
"These two provisions make it hard to attract mid-career professionals to fill critical teacher shortages in math and science," noted Rep. Berman, "because they can lose most of the Social Security benefits they've accrued in other jobs. We can help our school districts recruit valuable teachers if we can eliminate the GOP and the WEP. I very much appreciate Rep. McKeon's hard work on this bill to benefit our teachers, fire fighters, police officers and other affected public servants."
Under current law, the GPO reduces Social Security spousal benefits if the recipient has another government pension based on work that was not covered by Social Security. The GPO takes two-thirds of the government pension and subtracts that from the spousal benefit. If two-thirds of a person's government pension exceeds his/her spousal benefit, that person does not receive the spousal benefit. Many public employees did not prepare for a smaller Social Security benefit when they planned for retirement.
The windfall elimination provision that is currently in place reduces Social Security benefits for workers who also have pension benefits from employment not covered by social security, such as state pensions.
Although these provisions are only applicable to some 15 states, they affect people in many of America's most populated states such as Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois, New York, and California.
Representatives Berman and McKeon coauthored similar legislation in the 107th, 108th, and 109th Congresses, each time receiving a groundswell of bi-partisan support. By the end of the last Congress, the bill had over 300 cosponsors. And although the new bill is just now being introduced, it has over 100 cosponsors.
In an effort to give the legislation the greatest opportunity for consideration, they hope to incorporate their bill into a larger legislative package of Social Security reform.

Friday, January 12, 2007

John Curry to Damon Asbury re: Better accessibility to Board meetings for all

John Curry to Damon Asbury, January 10, 2007
Subject: Governor Strickland's Executive Order of 1.8.07


Just a few days ago our new Governor issued an Executive Order (1.8.07) which primarily dealt with tightening governmental ethics rules, but also dealt with timely electronic transmittal of governmental board meetings. I quote from text of this executive order of Jan. 8, 2007 ..."The executive order also encourages all cabinet agencies and state boards and commissions to make public meetings more accessible, including presenting meetings live or recorded on the Internet."

Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for receiving the recorded CD's of the audio portion of current Board meetings however..... I get the package of CD's approximately three weeks after the Board meeting is adjourned. It's kind of like (to use something that folks of our age are familiar with) getting your draft orders to report to Cincinnati, OH to take your Uncle Sam pre-induction physical in your mailbox three weeks after your scheduled appearance for the physical. It just isn't the same!

I am aware that the topic of a Board live video feed has been discussed and financial reasons were given as a reason not to proceed. What hasn't been thoroughly explored is the much cheaper audio (only) feed.... either live or delayed and presented to STRS stakeholders via a link on the STRS website. Many organizations and even some churches are now offering this service. This cost would be offset by the savings of not having to produce the many CD's (5 in my recent packet of the December Board meeting) and to mail them to those who have requested them. This packet cost us at least several bucks to produce and mail. Surely our IT department is capable of handling this task ("presenting audio feeds of Board meetings live or recorded on the Internet") that is now strongly recommended by our new Governor.

If the STRS can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a "study" from the Independent Fiduciary Services, Inc. that took in the neighborhood of two years to arrive I (and other retirees) feel that the STRS could part with a few "well-spent" dollars to come into compliance with what our new Governor is encouraging. This way, any STRS stakeholder or citizen who has access to the Internet can, in a timely fashion, hear discussion and decisions being made that will affect the futures of all STRS stakeholders. Many of these deserving people are unable to attend STRS Board meetings due to ill health, physical limitations, weather, finances, and/or are back to work (in my case) so that they can afford "affordable" healthcare insurance since the spousal subsidy has been eliminated.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

John Curry -- an STRS retiree and a Proud CORE member

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Paul Boyer to Conni Ramser: Shape up or ship out, or we will force you out

From Paul Boyer, January 11, 2007
Subject: Re: 011007 Curtis To Ramser, Re Personal Mtg With You Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2007 07:47:19 -0500

Dear Conni,

I have not written to you lately but it is not simply because I suddenly agree with everything you are doing. I DON'T. I agree completely with everything Tom Curtis says to you here and, as I have told you before, it is time for you to get off the board. GOOD-BYE.

What do you get out of serving on the board and currently as chairman? I have told you before that according to STRS own rules you were not eligible to be voted into the position, except by a bending of the rules.

Does it give you a feeling of importance to belittle John Lazares and Dennis Leone? Excuse me, but both of them have more intelligence and knowledge about STRS business in their little toe then you have in the same.


Paul L. Boyer

Tom Curtis to Conni Ramser: You are not listening to us

From Tom Curtis, January 10, 2007
Subject: Curtis To Ramser, Re Personal Mtg With You

Hello Conni,

Thank you for your timely response to my email of 1.8.07. I will first answer each of your questions and then offer you some other comments.

Ramser: What is your issue?

Not responding to or acting on issues brought to your attention by the people you are there to represent is not listening. The membership expects far more than your simply hearing what they have to say. They expect results. At the very least, they are entitled to some kind of intelligent, sincere and informed response. This is my biggest issue with your performance on the board thus far. However, please understand that I have many more issues to discuss with you. This has become the case, due to your failure to keep up with providing answers to my questions. I guess given enough time, you can reclassify an issue a non-issue, right?

Conni, I explained to you when we first spoke face to face that many others and I would be watching your performance and responding to such. What did you not understand about that? You promised much better when you were sworn into office, then you have delivered. You have embarrassed yourself and the entire board by going public with negative and childish comments about Dennis Leone, then not being big enough to apologize publicly. Please get with the program, so our pension system does not go into insolvency. You do not hold a candle to the knowledge and experience that either John Lazares or Dennis Leone holds. Yet, you apparently and erroneously believe you do, considering the public comments you have made. If you want to make yourself look better, you need to start treating them with a lot more respect.

Ramser: After all, I spent over 6 hours talking with you when I first came on the board.

Yes you did. Actually, you spent more then 6 hours, but that was part of your job as a board member. If you will kindly remember, we discussed the amount of time you would have available concerning your responsibility to the membership and you assured me that would be no problem. From the questions you raise in your email response of 1.8.07, I would conclude that it is already a problem. Further, as you stated, our prior meetings were right after you came onto the board. I thanked you then and I am still grateful that you did so, but your responsibility to communicate with the membership certainly did not end there, especially now that you are the chairman of the board. I would never have guessed you find that the 6+ hours you have spent talking with me in the past to be exorbitant?

Ramser: Is there something new that we didn't discuss then?

Yes, there are many “new” issues I need to discuss with you. Our last sit-down was in 2005. Do you honestly feel that there is nothing “new” to discuss since 2005? There has been something “new” to discuss after almost every board meeting I have attended. If you are unable to meet with members, then you need to resign your position. Apparently someone gave you a very unrealistic idea of what your responsibility to the membership should be. Maybe I need to contact Marc Dann’s office and request a clarification on that?

Ramser: Is there something that you haven't said during the public speaks session?

Conni, please don’t patronize me. Absolutely there is! I even indicated this in one of my recent public speaks presentations, though apparently, you not remember that. Others and I receive no response from many of our board members after speaking and asking questions. That needs to change. With the exception of a few, you appear to look right through us, as though we were not there, and are quick to shut us up when our 180 seconds have expired. By the way, the time limit per person for the public speaks is another issue that needs to be addressed at the retreat this year. (Please consider this a formal request) If there are 15 speakers, I can see a possible need for it. But when there are only a few – half a dozen, maybe, as is usually the case – there needs to be some leniency, especially considering many people drive great distances at their own expense to be there. I know of one retiree, who slips in on his lunch hour, HOPING for an opportunity to speak, and usually NOT getting it, because the schedule has been delayed due to an executive session. Further, after the public speaks is complete, you usually adjourn the meeting, so what is the rush. Are you all that traumatized about hearing how your membership truly feels? Obviously you are.

Now, am I to assume that because the board was gracious enough to allow me a whole 3 minutes once a month to speak to them, that they believe all I have to say has been said? This is absurd; exactly the type of attitude I find so unacceptable with you and others on the board. Conni, most everyone knows you are not on that board because of your qualifications. I have spoken to this issue as well. You have little to no background in finance and business. You are on that board because the OEA went out and placed your name in front of a much larger group of voters than anyone else was able to do. Purely political - nothing more - nothing less. Had you run for the office without big money backing, you and I and everyone else knows it would be a very different story.

Ramser: Just because we haven't had a face to face doesn't mean I haven't listened to your comments.

As I stated in my first response, hearing, but not responding or acting on something brought to you by the people you are there to represent is not listening. Now stop and ask yourself, what have you done for me lately, concerning any of my requests to you by email, or requests made during the public speaks? That should answer your question, shouldn't’t it?

Ramser: If you have a problem that I could help you resolve, I would be more than happy to help.

I really wish I had some way of knowing this offer was sincere. But you have not shown me that respect to date, as I indicated in my comments above. You do not even show that respect to some of your board members, so why would I believe you would treat me any differently? I have asked you many things since you have been on the board. The vast majority of my requests have gone unanswered. Why? Because when someone asks you a tough question, or one you do not want to answer, you offer a very weak answer, if you offer an answer at all. I have experienced this during conversations with you and with certain other board members as well.

As a board member, how is your thinking any different from your OEA predecessors (other than the fact that you haven’t done anything that we know of that is likely to land you in court)? Like them, you cave in to the wishes of the STRS management, giving members reason to question what may be going on behind the scenes. Such as, what favors the management may be dealing out to those who kiss up to them, or are too new to realize what’s really going on (like the credit card deal and probably more stuff we haven’t uncovered yet). YOUR ATTENTION NEEDS TO BE FOCUSED ON THE MEMBERSHIP, NOT WHO CAN GIVE YOU PERKS OR MAKE YOU FEEL IMPORTANT. Wake up, Conni. We see right through this stuff, and we can spot a phony a mile away. As another retiree so succinctly put it: “She’s there for herself; she’s there for OEA; but she’s NOT there for us!” We want to trust you and the STRS management; please help us to find reason to do so!

Curtis: Further comments.

It is painfully obvious you feel you owe me NO responses to my questions, but I will not stop asking because of such. I am a bulldog when it comes to getting answers to questions and problem solving. My background is technology and this is what technologists do. We evaluate a process or system and then work on improving that system when there are obvious problems. God knows the STRS needs much oversight. They can only squander thousands of dollars of retirees’ money buying reports from companies like IFS, for so long. I am tired of getting nowhere with you and others at the STRS, but I am NOT going to go away. I will spend my time contacting legislators and others that I hope will bring pressure upon the people and processes needing to be changed or replaced at the STRS.

Conni, you are in a public position and you will have members in your face the entire time you are there unless you start listening to those who have far more knowledge, wisdom and experience than you will ever possess. No, I am not referring to the OEA leadership; as you well know, many consider them to be a big part of the problem. I beg you to get down to the real business that you should be doing (if you are capable): cleaning up the mindset of the management of the STRS and not allowing business as usual. That’s what got STRS into trouble in the first place. Little has truly changed concerning management’s mindset since Herb Dyer left with the very generous severance package your corrupt predecessors awarded him.

In closing, YES, I need to meet with you to discuss many issues, or I would not have requested it so many times. You told me you would contact me after the November board meeting, but you did not. To continue ignoring me only compounds the number and the severity of the issues I need to discuss with you.

Thomas Curtis
STRS Retiree





Click image to enlarge

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Contact Governor Strickland here

Click here to send Governor Ted Strickland your views, opinions, experiences or concerns with how state government is being run. Your concerns or comments are welcome.
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
..........................................................~ Edmund Burke, 1770

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

More knee surgery for John Lazares

Due to complications from his knee replacement surgery in August 2005, CORE and STRS Board member John Lazares is scheduled for further surgery on that knee on January 22. Many are aware of the intense pain he has suffered since his first surgery, and of the fact that he has had to use a crutch ever since. John expects to be in the hospital at least four days, and may be "out of commission" three or four months. We hope this surgery is 100% successful and wish John a speedy and complete recovery this time.

Damon re: Boards paying additional retirement money for some

Damon Asbury to Molly Janczyk, January 9, 2007
Subject: RE: Damon: Boards paying additional retirement money for some
Just to confirm my original reply to Robert Hudson Jones on this matter, I asked Bob Slater, our Chief Financial Officer for his opinion. It is as follows:
It is as "cost neutral" as a salary increase. If employer pick-up is adopted for a group such as teachers or administrators, presumably not all are close to retirement. Whether an employer gives a 4% employer pick-up or a 4% salary increase, the effect on STRS is exactly the same.
Employer pick-up is subject to the same FAS limits as any salary increase, additional supplemental contract, etc.
Therefore, it has no impact on the unfunded liabilities, nor does it impact retirees.
From Molly Janczyk, January 08, 2007
Subject: Damon: Boards paying additional retirement money for some
Impressions thus far: Please confirm or correct the statement below comprised of some impressions gathered. Sources did not wish to be named in case their info was incorrect but this is their take based on info over time.
Issue of Board pick-up of employee STRS contributions as described by RH Jones. Rather than pump up your Final Average Salary for retirement computation purposes, I always heard that the reverse was true -- that such a pick-up would put more cash in your paycheck but would not be counted as income at STRS when FAS was calculated.
Thus, from the standpoint of STRS, it's pretty much a neutral thing except for the fact that STRS wasn't receiving any contribution for this extra fringe benefit. Of course, STRS wouldn't be paying out a higher benefit either. It should be a "wash." That's been my understanding from various Labor Relations Consultants over the years. It's never been a favored strategy by many as far as I know.

Health of future state pensions questioned (Minnesota) (Minnesota), January 7, 2007
Click here to read story.

Tom Curtis: A thank you to Rep. Oelslager and a request for Tom Hall's appointment

From Tom Curtis, January 9, 2007
Subject: 010907 Rep W Scott Oelslager, Thank You
Hello Rep. W. Scott Oelslager,
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me yesterday. I was pleased to find you were most knowledgeable with every item we discussed, but one. That being the lobbying of Betty Montgomery and Jim Petro for the Governor to veto the funds for Thomas Charles to open an investigation of the STRS in 2003. Please know that neither Montgomery nor Petro lifted one finger to help retirees with the gross misspending that had taken place at the STRS. Gloria Gaylord, one of the attorney general's representatives, traveled on our dollar just as extensively as did the elected board members that were all found guilty of ethics charges. The two-year window had closed for her by the time any charges were filed against the rest.
What I learned yesterday is that your involvement in the support of our public education system and the STRS has been extensive and very supportive. It is a shame the majority of the legislature cannot be credited with such.
Another topic I so wanted to discuss is the possible appointment of Thomas Hall to the STRS board. He would fill the remainder of the term of Geoffrey Myers, who recently resigned. As I indicated in a prior email to you, both the Speaker of the House and the Senate President will reappoint that position, as I am sure you are aware. I believe you have Tom Hall's vitae from a prior email, but if not, I will gladly sent it to you. Tom Hall had the next highest number of votes in the last STRS election, next to the two members that won. I hope you will find Tom Hall's background to be worthy of the appointment to the STRS Board.
In closing, I would ask for your support in recommending Tom Hall to the Speaker of the House to fill the vacant position. This same request has been sent to many legislators throughout the state. If you have any questions about anything we discussed yesterday, please contact me at 330-[xxx].
Tom Curtis
North Canton, OH

OSBA's new president

Article published January 8, 2007
Toledo Blade
Findlay woman will lead Ohio school boards
FINDLAY - Increasing membership in the Ohio School Boards Association is important to its new president even if there's only one board in the state that doesn't belong.
Martha Rothey, a longtime Findlay city school board member, said she visited the Black River Local Schools in Medina County last week to encourage its board to join the association. The group provides training, legal counsel, and lobbying for school boards.
"It's a very respected group and very well supported by school boards in the state," she said.
Yesterday, Ms. Rothey, who is known as Marty, was installed as the association's president during a ceremony at Findlay High School. She will lead the 722-member organization for a year, then remain on its executive board in 2008 as past president.
Employed as senior program officer for the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation, Ms. Rothey, 54, is beginning her 13th year on the Findlay school board. She was president for seven of those years, two as vice president.
For several years, she has been a representative from the association's 20-county northwest Ohio region.
The region includes all counties south of the Michigan line and east of the Indiana line, out to Erie and Huron counties.
Paul Blaine, assistant superintendent for Findlay schools, said Ms. Rothey has impressed him with her concern about students.
"The thing Marty brings to the board is a passion for children and their education," Mr. Blaine said. "Everything she does is focused on students. She has no 'agenda' other than that."
He said administrators are pleased to see her take the associaton's helm.
"I think it is quite an honor not only for Marty but also for our school district," he said. "It also gives us a special insight to state and national issues with which she is involved in."
Ms. Rothey will not be paid for her role with the association, although she will be reimbursed for expenses.
She said she expects to spend much of the year on the road, representing the association on a number of committees; lobbying on behalf of school boards in Columbus and Washington, and making at least two trips to each of the association's five regions.
"I would like to work toward getting school board members across the state to establish a vision they see for their district, to look at how to obtain educational excellence in their district," she said.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at or 419-353-5972.

Monday, January 08, 2007

STRS announces appointment of Craig Brooks to Retirement Board

From STRS, January 8, 2007
Jan. 8, 2007
Treasurer of State Jennette Bradley announced her appointment to the State Teachers Retirement Board before leaving office on Jan. 5, 2007. Joining the board will be Craig Brooks, who retired in 2003 from KeyCorp in Cleveland. Mr. Brooks held several executive-level positions during his 30-year career at KeyCorp including Executive Vice President - Finance and President of KeyCorp Mortgage. He holds a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and economics as well as a master's degree in business administration from the University of Dayton. Mr. Brooks resides in Solon, which is near Cleveland. He will serve on the board through December 2008.
Amended Substitute Senate Bill 133 passed in June 2004, included a provision that requires the state treasurer to appoint an investment expert to the State Teachers Retirement Board. The 11 members of the board are compensated for expenses only.
STRS Ohio, with investment assets of more than $65 billion, serves as the public pension fund for Ohio's public educators, providing retirement, survivor and disability benefits, as well as optional health care coverage for retirees.

From RH Jones: The educated live longer lives

RH Jones, January 8, 2007
Subject: The educated live longer lives
To all:
The Akron Beacon Journal today, 01/08/07, Editorial Page A8, lists two interesting editorials:
(1) Educated living: a new twist on the concept of life-long learning
(2) State Rep. Brian Williams (D), 41st District: HB79: Not a bad bill
First, the editorial Educated living in short explains: " --- researchers discussed the studies that have isolated education as 'the one factor that . . . is consistently linked to longer lives in every country in which it has been studied.'
The findings showed that education is a more important factor in longevity than genes or race or income. ..." The article concludes: " Still, understanding the consistent impact of education on the length of life, not just the quality of life, offers on more incentive for Ohioans and others to push hard for a greater investment in education."
Ohio citizens, especially their state representatives, need to take note of this important finding. It is common sense: We Buckeyes will be all better off because of greater spending on public education from Pre-K to life's end! (Go Bucks in today's game!)
Second, Rep. William's HB 79 letter to the editor: " --- It is regrettable that the majority party in this latest lame-duck session chose, once again, to alter a good bill with unrelated voucher amendments - and did so in the dead of night at the very end of the 126th General Assembly, when little, if any, public testimony and debate could take place."
Sadly for Ohio, a few of those "majority party" were reelected. To insure good health, long life, and prosperity, it is the duty of all Buckeyes to be sure politicians are closely monitored now and in the future -- Public school professional educators are especially endowed with the lifelong responsibility to prevent an ignorant population. The massive shift of public tax dollars away from public school districts into the failed ignorant experiment of entrepreneurial charter schools has got to end. It is beyond common-sense. Therefore, there is a need to enlighten and to "turn up the heat" on the politicians who for so many years have ignored the will of the people; and, also, ignored the De Rolph Supreme Court decision on adequate school funding.
Politicians, we are watching you. The age of at the speed of lightning in electronics is here. You can not get away any longer with putting yourselves and your cronies above the people. (STRS board members are you listening? This applies to you too!)
Robert Hudson Jones, retired STRS member & multi-union lifer

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dennis Leone appointed interim head of new facility

"This project it the consolidation of a lot of different agencies for the first time," said Dennis Leone, interim director for the center.
To get prepared for the center's opening, Leone visited numerous similar facilities, including the Franklin County Early Childhood Education and Family Center located on Johnstown Road near the Columbus airport.
"We've learned a lot ... from visiting other centers," Leone said, adding that included the importance of developing a cohesive operations manual for the center.
Article published Jan 6, 2007
Chillicothe Gazette
Child Development and Family Service Center opens producing smiling faces
Gazette Staff Writer
The Head Start students laugh as they hurriedly race around the perimeter of their new home, driving various trikes. Riding in the hallways is something new for them, too.
"They love it," said Denise Sanford who is the Head Start manager at the new Ross County-Ohio University-Chillicothe Child Development and Family Service Center which opened Tuesday.
Over the holidays, rooms were put together in a rush in a move from old classrooms, located at Hopewell, and into the brand new $3.4 million center where, although they have rein over the building this week, partners will begin moving in around them.
"This is the first new facility our children have ever had," Sanford said, adding that in her 25 years with Head Start, classes have always been placed into former schools or other places.
About 100 children have already moved into the facility and the expectation is that about 200 children will be part of the Head Start classes at the center.
Partnering for better service
But the center, built with commitment funds, donations, foundations and grants, isn't just for Head Start, said OU-C Dean Rich Bebee. Located on OU-C's campus near the Shoemaker Center, the center also will house two classes from the college - early childhood education and nursing - and programs from Ross County Jobs and Family Services, Ross County Board of MR/DD, and an outreach program from Walnut Street United Methodist Church.
"This project it the consolidation of a lot of different agencies for the first time," said Dennis Leone, interim director for the center.
To get prepared for the center's opening, Leone visited numerous similar facilities, including the Franklin County Early Childhood Education and Family Center located on Johnstown Road near the Columbus airport.
"We've learned a lot ... from visiting other centers," Leone said, adding that included the importance of developing a cohesive operations manual for the center.
Tried, true
Rebecca Love, director of the Franklin County center's board of MR/DD, said the partnerships at the Franklin County facility have taken a lot of work since it opened in September 2001, but it has been worth it.
"It's been wonderful. We have really developed lots and lots of information from one another," she said. "We have had a lot of learning of each others agencies ... The children who are being served, one system never would have been able to achieve."
Some of the most notable developments since opening has been the community support and offerings to the center, all with diverse reaches into the community, Love added. When the ADAMH Board of Franklin County passed a levy, part of the money was earmarked for children services. The organization approached the center, Love said, and offered $50,000 which was used to place a full-time children's services mental health expert on site.
"It's almost like a field of dreams," she said in regard to the number of organizations that have approached and helped the center grow.
Exposure, growth
Bob Gallagher, director of Ross County Job and Family Services, said joining the project aligned with services they are trying to promote and grow, such as its parenting resources program and the Ohio Family and Children First Council, a planning body that focuses on assisting children with extraordinary needs.
"We obviously felt the center made a lot of sense in a child care one-stop shop source, but also as a places for outreach," he said.
The same is true for OU-C.
"One of the exciting things to me is the possibility it might provide more access to knowledge of higher education to people who might not be bound to higher education, parents and kids," Bebee said. Hopefully, the familiarity will help them become more comfortable with us, whether they would go to OU or somewhere else."
Students also will gain more exposure to children with special needs since the Ross County Board of MR/DD will locate therapy groups into the facility as well as preschool units of identified children in the fall.
"It can't be stressed enough how important that is. Unless you come to a place like Pioneer, you don't get the hands on (with students special needs)," said Dottie Fay, community information specialist at Pioneer. "Now, the hands-on will be available for a lot more people."
"By having students around MR/DD, they are bound to become better educated of these students," Bebee said. "It will help with them to develop an understanding and appreciation of these students."
Beginning in March, between 100 and 150 OU-C students taking part in early childhood education and nursing programs will begin meeting in two classrooms throughout day and evening courses.
"The early childhood students will be able to meet observation and student teaching requirements here," Leone said, adding the closeness to the school also will allow students to schedule an evening class easier while doing those practicums commitments.
The center is designed in a circular pattern with wide hallways and a community area on one end - the David Meade Massie Trust Town Square - as well as a landscaped garden area housed outside in the center of the building. Playgrounds are located in fenced-in areas - still awaiting equipment - in three sections around the building with direct access from classrooms.
The Head Start classrooms are open, partitioned in the center with shared curtained bathrooms for toddlers and a common sink and storage area for teachers. There also is a nurses' area, full-service kitchen and a laundry room.
The facility also is secured, with a main entrance that opens onto a reception area and visitors must check-in before being buzzed into the facility.
"We have a real secured site ... to make sure only the properly authorized people have access to the students," Leone said.
A few of the Job and Family Services programs and the WeeCare Outreach program, the Walnut UMC program that offers support for students, parents and their children, will be accessible directly from the reception area.
"I was worried about the parents with the security, but they've been fine," Sanford said. "They love it."
Currently, there are four rooms that have yet been designated for use. Leone said there has been discussion about utilizing the space for infant care.

From a retiree

Put his on your blog, just not with my name! I want people to question this!
If so many teachers are returning to work, why are our health care premiums so high? STRS says we are using more HC dollars than other groups of retirees. I don't believe it! If so many people are returning to full-time work, they cannot be that sick or they wouldn't be able to work like they are. I would think our premiums should be lower than comparable retirees. Something is wrong here! Where are our healthcare dollars going?
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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