Friday, March 02, 2007

STRS in cahoots with Caremark? Please -- tell me it isn't so!

From John Curry, March 2, 2007
Subject: Update: "Why was my approved prescription denied"?
Below is a letter (#2) from an STRS retiree who was denied her Rx - the same Rx she had been on with STRS/Caremark for years. The Rx was - AND IS - still on the STRS/Caremark list for 2007 (as it was for 2006) as a "prior authorization" Rx. Isn't it a shame that a retiree has to jump through all these hoops and initiate the "going up the chain of command" just to get satisfaction? I wonder how many other STRS retirees just "gave up" and went without their medication or painfully paid the retail price to avoid the hassle to obtain the vital Rx? This lady has courage. John
From (name withheld to protect privacy) to John Curry, March 2, 2007
Subject: Update: "Why was my approved prescription denied"?

Hi John,
Thank you for helping me get in touch with the correct person at STRS. I did phone Gary Russell and left a message. Today, I did talk to Brenda Foster from STRS; she said Gary Russell asked her to contact me. I explained my problem with my "in the booklet",approved,Tier 3, prior authorization drug, Provigil, that was denied. She said she would call me Monday after she investigates the issue.
I also told her about 2 other drugs that were denied (same status as above) but I had to do further tests for one to rule out dementia and Alzheimer's, and for the other drug I had to take a behavior modification class. As you know, I dropped the ball on that one.
She also told me that STRS does not deny the drugs. Caremark brings a list of approved drugs to STRS for (no doubt costly) consideration. She didn't say who at STRS makes the decision for denial, but this issue of denying drugs starts with Caremark. I will ask who the final decision rests with...STRS or Caremark.
I'll ask further questions on Monday...I also told her about the rep that told me"we can't put everything in the book." This statement lead me to believe that STRS and Caremark were in "cahoots." Brenda Foster assured me that STRS just has a contract with Caremark.
It was good talking with you today.
(Name withheld to protect privacy)

They're trying in Arkansas but not in Ohio


Thursday, March 01, 2007

An Internet Joke (??)

Healthcare Today
Two patients limp into two different American medical clinics with the same complaint. Both have trouble walking and appear to require a hip replacement.
The first patient is examined within the hour, is x-rayed the same day, has a time booked for surgery the next day and, within two days, is home recuperating.
The second sees the family doctor after waiting a week for an appointment, then waits eighteen weeks to see a specialist, then gets an x-ray, which isn't reviewed for another month and finally has his surgery scheduled for
6 months from then.
Why the different treatment for the two patients?
The first is a Golden Retriever.
The second is a Senior Citizen

Molly Janczyk: STRS, not Caremark, makes these decisions

From Molly Janczyk, March 1, 2007
Subject: RE: Approved drug denied
It is STRS making the decisions on what drugs we have available to us. It is STRS deciding what drugs need prior authorizations and are on which tier: formulary or off formulary. Only STRS can ensure she gets her meds. Caremark has nothing to do with deciding which drugs and only go by STRS' plan. There are folks at Caremark that can override certain situations but WITH STRS approval.

Is Caremark out to make us too sick to fight their actions? And who will help us at STRS? Where is the ombudsman?

From John Curry, March 01, 2007
Subject: Fw: Approved drug denied

Note from John: The author of the letter below had her name removed from this general distribution for privacy purposes. Gary Russell now has her name and hopefully will rectify this situation.
From: (Name withheld due to distribution to others) Thursday, March 1, 2007
Subject: Approved drug denied
Hello Mr. Russell,
My name is (name withheld due to distribution to others). I called earlier today and left a message because you were in a meeting. I have read many of your answers about our health care on the CORE website.
I have the sleep disorder, narcolepsy. I tried for 25 years to get a correct diagnosis. I was then 28, and now I am 58 years old. I have been to the best doctors and facilities in Ohio. I even told the doctor at OSU what I thought I had, but he told me it wasn't. In 2000 I finally got a diagnosis after many tests. The medicines have to be customized to fit each person because all do not have the same symptoms. At last my doctor found the correct combination of medicines that has allowed me to have a life for the last 5 years.
Now Caremark and STRS are denying this drug. In January I followed the correct steps with prior authorization. I kept waiting for this approval, but Caremark didn't let me know that I was denied. I called Caremark only to be told that my doctor did not submit the request. I know this is not true because I received approval for my other medicines. I asked my doctor to resubmit the prior authorization request again. But this time Caremark had to send a fax stating that they did receive the request. Now that it is February, I am told a month later that I was denied. This same thing happened in January '06 and April '06 with the same drugs. There is absolutely no kindness when dealing with Caremark.
A Caremark rep could not tell me the main person/the person in charge/a contact person who made this decision for me. She just kept telling me that it was STRS and a planning committee from Caremark. I know that someone is always in charge. I consulted my STRS health care booklet for '06 because the information on the '07 benefit sheet would have been noted if there was a change. PROVIGIL was still an approved/prior authorization drug.
I was told that my doctor could appeal the decision, and she has, but we know that will take weeks. Here's the sad part...I was told that in order for me to continue with the drug, I would have to have additional tests that would "rule out any other sleep disorder" or that what I have does not "stem from a mental disorder" Evidently someone does not know about testing....I have had and can produce 25 years worth of tests...every part of my body has been hooked up for some test. What would Medical Mutual think about the thousands of dollars that this would cost for the unnecessary testing that my doctor doesn't think I need.
Now, remember my doctor has prescribed this same medicine for me for 5 years, and I have had no problem. I know that I can't live a "normal life" without medication. What does STRS and Caremark want to provide for me?
I have had 2 approved prescriptions denied in the last year, and I gave up because I was again told that I would have to have many tests done in order for Caremark to allow me the drug. I called STRS about these drugs...STRS blamed Caremark and told me to call them...I did and they blamed STRS. Another run-around? I called the STRS rep again and told her that I didn't read in my booklet about the constraints that Caremark indicated. She said to me, "well, we can't put everything in the booklet".
Today, I am tired because I am missing my medicines, and I am tired of the SCAMS and jumping through hoops for STRS. I have read your helpful information to others, and I think you can guide me in finding an answer to my medication problems.
Thank you,
(name withheld due to distribution to others)


From John Curry, March 1, 2007
Subject: Caremark
The letter below came to me from an STRS retiree (and fellow CORE member) who asks the question, "is there going to be a stop to Caremark running our healthcare and our doctors?" I have removed the retiree's name from this email for privacy .... even though she advised that she didn't mind if her name was distributed.
After contacting her by phone (a few minutes ago) I learned that she has been on this particular drug (Provigil) for years (with Caremark being the supplier) and advised that, although it IS on their list of covered Rx - now, Caremark will not continue to provide it to her - at the now Tier 3 (up from Tier 2 last year) co-pay price without going through additional batteries of tests.
She advised that her physician has appealed Caremark's decision BUT THIS TAKES TIME AND SHE NEEDS HER MEDICATION NOW TO FUNCTION. She was referred to contact Gary Russell at STRS even though she advised that she talked to a person (lower level) at STRS who was unable to give her any satisfaction. She advised that she would keep in contact and relate any additional problems with obtaining this badly needed medication. NO PERSON SHOULD HAVE TO LIVE THEIR LIFE LIKE THIS!
From: (Name withheld for member privacy)
To: John Curry
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 8:33 PM
Subject: Caremark
Hi John,
Can you please help me or refer me to someone who can help me with my medication? I have narcolepsy, a sleep disorder, and I have taken Provigil for five years.
Today, Caremark told me that this drug is no longer covered. I was told that this was decided by my STRS plan and a committee at Caremark. The rep could not tell me who to contact about this. I was told that my doctor could appeal, and she has done so today. But, this will take weeks.
The rep told me that I was denied because I will need further testing done to ensure that I don't have some other sleep disorder or to ensure that narcolepsy does not stem from a mental disorder, or to ensure that I do not have a mental disorder.
All of this testing will cost thousands of dollars, there are hundreds of mental disorders I could be tested for(which I don't have), and I have had two diagnoses from two doctors that I have narcolepsy.
In 25 years I have had every neurological test and scan done to determine what I don't have...and now Caremark wants me to have more...
I was reading an email asking, "where can I "turn in" Caremark?" I once talked to a person at STRS about another drug that was denied, and it was on the list of approved medication with prior authorization...what a waste of my time...she gave me a smart I just dropped it. I told the STRS rep that the drug was in the 2006 booklet as approved, but she said "everything can't be put in that book".
Also no where in my 2007 booklet does it mention this problem with Provigil. Is there going to be a stop to Caremark running our health care and our doctors?

Secret ballot... if it is prohibited at OSU... why not at STRS?

OSU trustees' lesson in law
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Ohio State University's trustees ought to be a little bit embarrassed.
Relying on a 27-year-old opinion from the attorney general, the school's trustees planned to conduct public business in a secret fashion during Friday's scheduled vote to elect a new board chair.
Wisely, the OSU board is abandoning the practice of appointing the board chair solely on the basis of seniority. Not so wisely, the selection of that chair was to be by secret ballot.
But when Attorney General Marc Dann (a 1984 Michigan graduate) learned of board members' plans to conduct the vote in secret, he objected. Dann has been a staunch supporter of open government. And after his stint as an oft-quoted state legislator, it's well-established that he doesn't worry about hurting others' feelings with tough talk.
So, Dann didn't hesitate to fire off a letter telling OSU that any vote for chair should be done in the open. It was a win-win for the new attorney general: He got to champion public access and win points with voters.
It's far too early to draw conclusions about Dann's performance as attorney general, but on questions of public access, it appears this Wolverine will bite.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

From John Bos: How Florida handles charter schools

School Board approves resolution to regain authority over charter schools
Charlotte Sun (Florida), February 28, 2007
By Ella Nayor
The Charlotte County School Board unanimously approved a resolution which, if passed by the state Legislature, would allow the board to regain control over authorizing the use of charter schools.
The five-member board voted on the decision during a meeting at the Murdock Education Center on Tuesday evening.
The resolution, which would go into effect for the 2007-08 school year, would override a current law that took away school districts' rights to have sole authority over choosing charter schools, according to Assistant Superintendent Doug Whittaker.
District officials are not comfortable with the way the law stands now.
"We don't even have a say," said Superintendent Dave Gayler.
According to Whittaker, a loophole in the law allows school boards to appeal or submit a resolution to have authority over allowing charter schools to be created in their district. The resolution must be in state officials hands by Thursday.
If passed, the resolution gives district officials exclusive control to authorize charter schools within district boundaries.
The Alpha Center was the last charter school to exist within the district, Gayler said. Due to economic problems, the school folded about five years ago.
In other School Board business:
* The board unanimously approved the 2006-07 Student Learning Plan mid-year reports.
* The board unanimously approved raises for substitute teachers and other personnel.
* The board unanimously approved an Exceptional Learning Certificate program. According to officials, a sizeable jump in the English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) population is expected.
The program would allow for more teachers to get ESOL-certified as well as track which schools have the qualified personnel.
"It's a big step in getting prepared," Whittaker said.
* Lemon Bay High School is officially ready to begin its construction upgrades after the board unanimously approved the Castaldi Report.
The report, which spells out the cost effectiveness of demolishing standing buildings, is required by the state before work can begin.
"It closes the loop on Lemon Bay," Whittaker said.
You can e-mail Ella Nayor at

FLASHBACK -- 3 YEARS AGO: The illness, turnover and absenteeism bug struck STRS

STRS unrest led to more absenteeism and resignations, say officials
Canton Repository, February 20, 2004
By PAUL E. KOSTYU Copley Columbus Bureau chief
COLUMBUS — Turmoil at the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) during the second half of 2003 caused a higher number of employees than normal to leave their jobs or to be absent, officials said Thursday.
The pension fund’s employee turnover rate increased to 8.4 percent in 2003 compared to 4.9 percent in 2002, Lorrie Diaz told the system’s board.
Diaz, the director of Human Resource Services, also reported that absenteeism increased in 2003. The adjusted average of total absences climbed from 19.4 days per employee in 2002 to 22.2 days last year. Sick leave increased to 6.4 days from 4.7 days during the same period, while vacation leave went from 14.7 days to 15.8 days.
She said most of the increases came during the second half of the year when STRS was embroiled in controversy over spending and policy lapses that forced Executive Director Herbert L. Dyer out of office in August and resulted in changes in the fund’s operation.
“The stress level increased in the latter half of the year,” Diaz said.
She also said employees thought changes might occur in how sick leave and vacation days were accrued. Afraid of losing saved days, employees began using them quicker than normal, she said.
Damon Asbury, who was named the system’s executive director on Wednesday, said he believed it was important for the board to hear the report.
“It’s been a difficult year for our staff and our members,” he said. “We have excellent working conditions at STRS, and the changes reflect the trends we need to be aware of.”
Asbury expects the loss of more employees as the national economy improves. He said the quality of the work force makes the employees attractive to other employers. But he said he was “comfortable that we have a committed workforce.”
The report prompted a sharp exchange between board members Joe Endry and Jack Chapman. Endry told of an experience with sick leave in West Virginia, which caused Chapman to accuse him of implying that STRS employees take sick leave unnecessarily. He demanded an apology, and Endry refused to give one. It wouldn't be the last time the two clashed during a series of committee meetings the board held Thursday.
The board heard some good news. The Health-Care Stabilization Fund took in more money in 2003 than it paid out in benefits, resulting in an $383 million increase. That means the $3 billion fund is solvent through 2015, the board learned.
But there was a down side to that news for members. The improvement of the fund resulted, at least in part, in changes the board made to reduce benefits to members and their spouses.
The board delayed a staff recommendation to increase the income threshold for providing help with health-care premiums for STRS’s poorer and older retirees. Endry backed the increase, but Chapman argued that not enough information was provided to determine the impact the increase would have on the stabilization fund. The other seven board members sided with Chapman. More data and an actuarial analysis is expected at the board’s March meeting.
Stephen A. Mitchell, deputy director of investments, reported the investment returns for the current fiscal year reached 15.3 percent. He said the portfolio improved for seven straight months, which he said was unusual.
Those increases netted the portfolio $294 million so far, he said, adding he expected the markets to improve.
Mitchell also reported the sale of a Boston high-rise office building in February which netted STRS $191 million, the largest real-estate profit in the fund’s history.
You can reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Update on John Lazares

From Molly Janczyk, February 27, 2007
Subject: John Lazares: Good news
I called Tricia Lazares mainly due to Paul's request that John know he is praying for him. I had a note to call before the surgery so it was a double reason.
Tricia said the antibiotics seem to be doing their job and John's pain is mostly relieved. When he has rehab or activity he feels it but otherwise, he is SLEEPING and resting COMFORTABLY! Big news for one who hasn't done much of either in 2 yrs.
Tricia said the Dr.'s feel the infection should be gone and that John's bone should be strong enough for the surgery set Mon. 3/5 in the morning. Of course, no one can be certain until they open his knee area and biopsy the bone before they proceed on Mon. But, they anticipate good news.
Tricia said to call her Mon. for an update and I will forward that news on. Hopefully, it will say: John is free and clear and has a new and successful knee replacement! John is very much looking forward to this scenario and putting this experience behind him. I said, We expect a resurrection..............for our guy to RISE AGAIN! (as with Lazarus in Bible, John must live up to his name, Tricia said).

How STRS fared in today's Wall Street nosedive

From Damon Asbury to STRS Board, February 27, 2007 4:20 PM
Subject: FW: Today's equity markets
I asked Steve Mitchell to provide perspective on today’s financial picture and how it impacted STRS Ohio. His analysis is provided below. We will keep you informed on any on-going changes.
Steve Mitchell to Damon Asbury and Senior Staff, February 27, 2007 4:14 PM
Subject: Today's equity markets
As I mentioned at this morning’s Senior Staff meeting, the international equity markets were down sharply (responding to China’s 9% drop) and the US market futures were down also. With Tuesday trading essentially now complete throughout the world: China declined 9%, Japan declined 1%, European markets declined 2.5% to 3.5%, Brazil -6.5%, Mexico -5.75%, and the US market -3.5%. STRS Ohio’s fixed income investments rose in value today and our large cash investments maintained value. Even with this serious one day decline, the STRS Ohio Total Fund has a zero return for the month of February, and the market value of our investment assets remains approximately the same as the January 31st figure of $72.8 billion.
View NY Times article on today's stock market plunge

Hey, Mr. Dann, don't they do secret ballots at STRS, too?

OSU trustees must choose their leader in public, attorney general says
By Kathy Lynn Gray
The Columbus Dispatch
Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann told Ohio State University's trustees today that they cannot choose their next chairperson by secret ballot.

The board decided in early February to elect its next chairperson rather than have the person who had been on the board the longest serve in that position. The board decided its vote would be by secret ballot.

Ohio State attorney Chris Culley said at the time that he had investigated the matter and determined that a secret ballot would be legal.

Dann informed the board today in a letter, however, that he believes a chairperson only can be elected by a roll call or voice vote.

“Secret ballots are to be strictly avoided, as the secret ballot on actions by public bodies frustrates both the letter and the intent of the Open Meetings Law because it masks the openness of the decision-making process,” he wrote.

“When an individual citizen accepts the rights and responsibilities of public office, he assumes the duty to stand and be counted on the record for his actions and decisions affecting the agency with which he serves.”

The board will vote Friday, at its March meeting.

Board Chairman Judge Bob Duncan and Culley could not be immediately reached for comment.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Molly Janczyk and June Hughes re: What teachers have to put up with

Molly Janczyk to June Hughes, February 26, 2007
Subject: Educator & Police/fire heros: To the public

But, June! Husted apparently feels we have all that time off to compensate us for those 'little pesky' incidents. Rather, we deal with conflict, act as counselors to families when children are in need on a daily basis with one counselor per school or several schools, constantly calling parents and consoling and resolving conflicts, planning so that each child meets his full potential, teach to Gr. level objectives and full time commitments for each subject, teach to Assessment objectives, go to inservices, supervise playgrounds, bus duties, work with counselors to test kids with problems, attempt to motivate parents simply to read with their child, (no easy task), and to ensure homework is done to practice skills needing assessments, encourage healthy diets and exercise, deal with kids who are unruly and disturb education with proper discipline, search our minds on how to reach those kids who seem unreachable demanding of ourselves to keep trying until we reach them and instill self discipline not done by their parents, keep constant control of our emotions in face of outlashes by students and parents who have no control over themselves or their children, internalizing stress until we become subject to stress related illnesses -- second only to air traffic controllers in a Newsweek article yrs. back.
But, hey! We 'get enforced unemployment' each summer! We have 2 choices: get paid all our salary during the school year or have that same salary lessened each month by having that dollar amount spread out over 12 months. Then we seek summer employment or second jobs to supplement our enforced unemployment.
We are asked to be everything to at risk kids. We must boost their self esteem when no one else does and make them feel they CAN do. We must be their sounding boards and trusted confidants and earn their respect so they will do all they can for themselves.
Teaching is not just presenting material and asking for assignments. Teaching is challenging ourselves to find a way to reach each child to capitalize on their strengths and work through their weaknesses. It is a constant process for success as we can only accept success to the best of each child's ability as our goal.
I have always challenged anyone who thinks less of educators to do one thing: Come to a class in a school with kids at risk due to drug and alcohol pregnancies, low functioning and or unwilling parents and take charge of it, plan and teach all objectives effectively outlined making sure each child has internalized these objectives, meet with parents and gain their faith and promise to help, organize centers and groups to work on collaborative projects providing for the instruction level of each child, deal with their emotional issues and lift their self respect, solve conflicts between students and families so educational environments are secure.
When any have done that, tell me 'Oh, teachers just want summers off.' We did not design the work year but because we want to teach endure it knowing we don't get the big bucks but that we previously would realized a secure pension and HC. Now, that has been taken away with HC costs prohibitive to retirees paying over $700 a month just for premiums for a recipient and spouse. Then high deduc., 20% out of pockets coinsurance and RX's up to $125 off formulary for a 3 month supply with the generic at $25 and name brand at $75. The average home has 20 RX's. Do the math. Our retirements have been robbed and most who can have gone back to work to pay for HC. Some have dropped HC or miss meds and treatments, sold homes, used financial security funds, with HC costs using so much of their pension cks. Some older retirees are billed by STRS as their pension does not cover their HC.
I have too, been in schools where teachers were beat up, hit, threatened, attacked both in school and robbed in parking lots. Cars have been stolen and personal items. I was the victim of robbery and it felt like a rape of my personal items as things were stolen of no monetary value along with credit cards, checks, etc. which could never be replaced. This was a few feet away from me and 30 other educators. Educators learn they cannot have purses with them ever containing anything. Even locked in trunks is a concern. It makes going to the grocery store and doing errands after school difficult on the way home. No one knows what it is like unless you have walked in the shoes of an educator. How dare anyone minimize what educators do for the community, for parents, for your children.
Please remember this when voting on issues regarding education.
From June Hughes, February 26, 2007
Subject: Re: Educator & Police/fire heros
I agree. There were many times parents would come to school 'looking' for a particular teacher. Some teachers have died or been beaten up! What about the crack heads and/or students with guns and knives? We didn't have guns or anything to protect ourselves except our smarts in how to deal with conflict -- especially females!!!!! Females don't usually have the strength to fight off a student. There was no motorcycle parade for a stabbed & killed female teacher like there was for police man who was killed while riding his motorcycle on his day off. There are no statues honoring us, either, like there are for fire persons and police officers. Usually it's considered the teacher's fault, and all in the name of trying to discipline a student so that other students can better him or herself with knowledge.

Actives & Retirees-here's your chance to bend a sympathetic ear re: NCLB

From: Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director Progress Ohio, February 26, 2007
Subject: Don't Let Our Children Be "Left Behind" by Congress!
Tell us your story: Are Our Children Being "Left Behind" by Congress?
You've seen kids slumped over tests in anguish.
You've heard the teachers complain about teaching to the tests.
You've heard the experts debate.
As a Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee:
Senator Sherrod Brown wants and needs to hear from You!
How is "No Child Left Behind" affecting Ohio and its students?
Parents! Teachers! Students!
What works and what doesn't about No Child Left Behind?
We'll collect your stories and comments and provide them to Senator Brown, as well as other members of The Committee, so that they can benefit from your input regarding the important issues affecting Our Children's Education.
Thank You!
Brian Rothenberg Executive Director
ProgressOhio - Powered by YOU!

STRS to hold special session for Board March 7 & 8

From Laura Donaldson, February 26, 2007
Subject: Public Notice
March 7 & 8, 2007
A special meeting of the State Teachers Retirement Board will be held on March 7 and 8, 2007, at the STRS Ohio offices in Columbus, Ohio. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on March 7, and resume at 9 a.m. on March 8. The primary purpose of the meeting is a general educational program focusing on investments and financial matters with the Retirement Board's independent investment advisor, Russell Investment Group. The Board may also consider other matters that require its attention.

A friendly contact at Medical Mutual

From Don Olson, February 26, 2007
Subject: RE: Flu Shots
Hi again Kathie:
I'm the manager of media relations. Although I primarily work with the news media, I would be happy to take in any comment or question you might have and direct it to the proper person or department.
Have a great day!
Here is all of my contact info:
Don Olson
Media Relations Manager
Medical Mutual of Ohio
2060 E. 9th St.
Cleveland, OH 44115
TEL: 216-687-2899
FAX: 216-687-6164
[You can learn more about Don here]

RH Jones: Teachers on front lines longer than cops; where's the funding?

From RH Jones, February 26, 2007
Subject: Educator & Police/fire heros
To all:
Gov. Strickland is asking for more support for the Highway Patrol, who get steady funding from our gasoline taxes. That is fine, but what about educators, as well.
Today, in Toledo, they are laying to rest a police officer would was killed by a 15-yr.old. The youth shot the officer in "cold blood". He could have just as well shot his teacher, who had to face this killer on a daily basis.
Yesterday, 02/25/07, the Beacon P. A7 reported: "A high school teacher was assaulted by two students and hospitalized with broken vertebrae after he took an iPod away from one of them in class officials said. The two students were 17 and 15, were charged Friday night police said."
In my career, among others times, I had to face down a father, his son, and two of their friends. One father was a giant in size. Parents as well as students have been known to attack educators. Sometimes they have joined with their child in the assault. For their hazardous employment, educators need public recognition, in the way of a secure retirement & HC/Rx,as well as our brothers/sisters in the armed police forces of our State of Ohio. While on patrol, at least the officers did not have such health hazards from disease, asbestos and mold filled buildings as educators endured throughout their careers. By the way, by law, our careers are longer than Police/fire & H. Patrol. And, by the way, many legislators want to increase the active years of our employment!
RHJones, retired STRS member & a CORE
Akron Beacon Journal, February 25, 2007
Teacher attacked
A high school teacher was assaulted by two students and hospitalized with broken vertebrae after he took an iPod away from one of them in class, officials said. The two students, ages 17 and 15, were charged Friday night, police said.

RH Jones: Don't forget the arts!

From RH Jones, February 26, 2006
Subject: Re: Education Update
Who would want to come to a state that emphasizes only math & science education? What quality businesses would want to come to a state where its citizens are not trained in the visual & musical arts?
The arts are just as important to attracting quality people & businesses as is math & science. An environment without the arts is a disadvantaged environment. Include the arts!
RHJones, a CORE member
[Well said, Bob. I'm all for promoting the arts in the schools. Not only do the arts vastly round out and enrich a community, greatly enhancing its ability to attract business and industry, but getting kids involved also keeps more of them off the streets. I'd like to see more emphasis on physical education, too. If P.E. were expanded, we might see fewer overweight kids who may be learning little more than how to take state proficiency tests. KBB]
From: "Matthew S. Platz" <>
To: "Matthew Platz" <>
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 5:58 AM
Subject: Education Update
To: LWVO From: Joan Platz Education Update for February 26, 2007
1) 127th General Assembly: The House and Senate have scheduled sessions for this week. The House and Senate education committees will not be meeting this week, but other committees, such as the House Ways and Means Committee and the both the House and Senate finance committees, are scheduled to meet. To view the hearing schedule for House and Senate committees please visit
*The House Finance and Appropriations Committee chaired by Representative Dolan, will continue to hear testimony on the FY08-09 Transportation Budget, HB 67 (Patton), which was introduced last week. The transportation budget is one of several FY 08-09 budgets for the state that lawmakers will consider over the next few months. Governor Strickland is recommending $3.9 billion in FY08 and $3.8 billion FY09.
*On February 20, 2007 Jim Zehringer took the oath of office to become the representative for the 77th Ohio House District, replacing Keith Faber, who resigned to be appointed to the Ohio Senate 12th District.
*In the Senate Tom Sawyer was sworn in as the representative of the 28th Senate District, replacing Kimberly Zurz, who resigned to become director of the Department of Commerce.
2) Bills Introduced the Week of February 19-23, 2007: Lawmakers introduced last week 67 bills in the Ohio House and 80 in the Ohio Senate, setting the legislative priorities for the 127th General Assembly. Among the bills introduced in the House is legislation that would address school funding, higher education, the estates tax, eminent domain, the CHIP insurance program for children, and redistricting. In the Senate the legislative priorities are school funding, higher education health care, eminent domain, the Passport program for senior citizens, and health care. The Democrats also introduced five priority bills as part of the "Turn Around Ohio" initiative. These bills include changes in the law regarding education and economic prosperity; energy production and conservation; affordable and accessible healthcare; economic security and safe communities; and responsive and responsible government. The following is a summary of education related bills introduced last week:
Senate SB1 (Padgett) School Funding. Reserves bill number for Governor's school funding reform plan. SB2 (Cates) Chancellor of the Board of Regents. Transfers appointment of the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents to the Governor. SB8 (Coughlin) College Tuition Tax Deduction. Restores the income tax deduction for college tuition and fees. SB11 (Roberts) Educational Opportunities. Directs the deliberations of the Ohio General Assembly to reform the state's public education systems. SB46 (Mumper) Youth athletics. Requires the development of a coach's conduct and ethics policy for volunteer coaches. SB49 (Schaffer) School Facilities Expedited Local Partnership Program. Regarding the ranking of a school district participating in the Expedited Local Partnership Program. SB51 (Schaffer) Deduction for Teaching Instructional Materials. Allows a tax credit for amounts spent by teachers for instructional materials. SB57 (Coughlin) Special Education Voucher. Establishes the Special Education Scholarship Program. SB62 (Ray Miller) School Zone Speeding. Doubles the fine for speeding violations in a school zone during restricted hours. SB64 (Ray Miller) Trio Programs. Provides for matching funds for federal TRIO programs at Ohio colleges. SB71 (Ray Miller) Corporal Punishment. Regarding the use of corporal punishment. SJR2 (Coughlin) Real Property Taxes. Limits increases in the taxable value of real property.
House HB1 (Setzer) School Funding Placeholder. Placeholder legislation reserved for Governor Strickland's school funding proposal. (Finance and Appropriations.) HB2 (Webster) Higher Education. Grants the governor authority to appoint the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. (Education Committee) HB6 (Stewart) State CHIP. Increases coverage under the State Children's Health Insurance Program. (Finance and Appropriations) HB14 (Hughes) Reimbursement for TPP. Extends full reimbursement to school districts for the phase-out of taxes on business tangible personal property. (Finance and Appropriations) HB26 (Wolpert) Urban Homestead Zones. Permits the creation of urban homestead zones in cities to encourage the re-population of certain city cores. HB27 (Wolpert) Academic performance ratings. Revises the law regarding school district and school building academic performance ratings. (Education Committee) HB29 (Harwood) Motor Fuel Tax. Exempts from the motor fuel tax any sales of motor fuel sold to school districts. (Finance and Appropriations) HB34 (Wolpert) Graduate School Student Loans. Establishes the Third Frontier Pilot Forgivable Loan Program for graduate students. (Finance and Appropriations) HB36 (Wolpert) School Enrollment. Creates the Rapid Enrollment Growth School Facilities Assistance Program. (Finance and Appropriations) HB42 (Steward) School Funding. Establishes a bipartisan committee to recommend to the G.A. a system that provides state funds to pay one hundred per cent of the cost of education. (Finance and Appropriations) HB43 (Garrison) Funding for Kindergarten. Provides formula funding for all-day kindergarten for all school districts and community schools that offer it. (Finance and Appropriations) HB44 (Garrison) State parity aid. Changes the formula for calculating state parity aid payments to primary and secondary schools. (Finance and Appropriations) HB59 (Combs) Property taxes. Defers increases in taxes on residences owned and occupied by individuals age 65 or older. HB60 (Evans) Homestead Exemption Military Service. Authorizes boards of county commissioners to exempt from taxation the homesteads of qualifying members of the National Guard and reserve components of the Armed Forces who have been deployed outside the state HB66 (Collier) Minimum School Year. Base minimum school year on hours, rather than days, of instruction. HB67 (Tom Patton) Transportation Budget. Makes appropriations pertaining to transportation purposes. HJR1 (DeWine) Legislative and Congressional Districts. Creates an independent commission comprised of seven individuals to help draw the legislative and congressional districts.
3) This Week at the Statehouse:
*The House Transportation and Justice Finance Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Tom Patton will meet on Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 1:30 PM in room 115 to hear testimony on HB 67 (T. Patton), the FY08-09 Transportation Budget.
*The Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee, chaired by Senator Carey, will meet on Tuesday, February 27, 2007 at 2:30 PM or after session in the Finance HR
*The House Transportation and Justice Finance Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Tom Patton, will meet on Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at
9:00 AM in room 115 to continue testimony on HB67 (T. Patton).
*The House Transportation and Justice Finance Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Tom Patton, will meet on Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 9:00 AM in room 115 to continue testimony on HB67 (Patton).
*The House Transportation and Justice Finance Subcommittee, chaired by Representative Tom Patton, will meet if needed on Friday, March 2, 2007 at
9:00 AM in room 115 to continue testimony on HB67 (Patton) Transportation Budget.
4) Council Issues Recommendations for Math and Science: The Science and Mathematics Education Policy Advisory Council (SAMEPAC), cochaired by OSU President Dr. Karen Holbrook and Dr. Julian Earls, released its report outlining reforms to improve math/science education in Ohio on February
19, 2007. The Council was appointed by former Governor Bob Taft in 2005 to develop recommendations to support higher levels of student achievement in math, science, technology, and engineering, in order to improve Ohio's success in the global economy.
The report includes five overall goals, several strategies, and 13 recommendations to make Ohio a leader in the innovation-based global economy and ensure that its citizens have high-level knowledge and skills in science and mathematics. The following includes the five goals with selected recommendations:
*Expand public awareness about the importance of science and mathematics to the future of Ohio's prosperity. Develop and implement a multi-year, research-based public awareness campaign promoting STEM careers, and sustain community-based and statewide partnerships to improve mathematics and science education.
*Increase the number of students mastering advanced science and math and pursuing STEM-related careers. Create special-focus schools linked to public and private colleges and universities, or to other STEM organizations, that can provide interested students with concentrated learning opportunities in STEM disciplines; Use technology - such as online course delivery - to expand access to upper-level courses in high school mathematics and science, including Advanced Placement (AP) courses, to small, rural school districts that lack financial or human resources to make such courses available in their school buildings; Refine and clarify Ohio's academic content standards in mathematics and science to help schools and school districts develop a more focused and coherent curriculum compatible with the preparation needed to enter college and the workforce; Encourage the redesign of entry-level postsecondary STEM courses based on models of exemplary postsecondary teaching to attract and retain more undergraduate students in STEM disciplines; Expand school-based and extracurricular resources and programs to attract students to higher-level mathematics and science learning opportunities and STEM careers.
"K-12 students in urban and rural high-poverty schools should have the same access to higher-level mathematics and science as students in wealthy suburban schools. Unfortunately, students - particularly underrepresented students - do not have uniformly good teachers, support and encouragement, rigorous coursework, enrichment opportunities or financial support. As long as such gaps exist, students from underrepresented populations will continue to struggle when and if they enter college, and economically challenged minorities will continue to be underrepresented in STEM careers." p. 12-13.
*Support high-quality science and math teachers and corresponding classroom instruction, based on changes in the way candidates are recruited, trained, retained, and developed throughout their careers. Provide higher subsidies or other incentives to teacher education programs that produce high-quality middle- and high-school mathematics and science teachers who enter the profession and teach in Ohio. Monitor and report on teacher education programs that successfully retain high-quality teacher education candidates through licensure and make the transition into the teaching profession, which is one of the research priorities of the Teacher Quality Partnership. Strengthen middle-grade licensure programs and middle- and high-school re-licensure requirements for mathematics and science teachers.
*Increase collaboration between postsecondary education programs and businesses to improve opportunities for those seeking STEM careers and meet workforce needs. Develop a Web-based clearinghouse for regional and statewide internship and externship opportunities to ensure that students in STEM academic programs acquire the requisite skills for entry into and for successful careers in Ohio's job market.
*Increase state-level capacity to improve STEM education, including the creation of the Institute for Mathematics and Science Education (IMSE). Connect the Institute for Mathematics and Science Education with regional delivery and support systems to drive strategic improvements in P-12 STEM education across the state.
Sustain Ohio's commitment to math and science education through the reallocation of current resources, new private investments, and new funding from the state.
To view the report, please visit
5) Coalition for Public Education Responds: The Coalition for Public Education, Barbara Shaner chair, responded on February 19, 2007 to the recommendations of the Science and Mathematics Education Policy Advisory Council. According to a press release, Coalition member organizations believe that many of Ohio's public schools already provide the kinds of technology programs that students need in order to develop the high-level knowledge and skills in science and math, and that efforts to improve math and science can be integrated into existing public school programs to make them even better. The Coalition for Public Education is a statewide alliance of education, parent and civic organizations interested in improving public education for Ohio's children and increasing accountability to taxpayers. Member organizations include: Ohio PTA, League of Women Voters of Ohio, Ohio Association of School Business Officials, Ohio School Boards Association, Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, Buckeye Association of School Administrators, Ohio Association of Public School Employees, Cleveland Teachers Union, Akron Education Association, Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, Columbus Education Association, Ohio AFL-CIO, Ohio Federation of Teachers, Toledo Federation of Teachers, Ohio Education Association, Ohio Retired Teachers Association.
6) Utah Enacts Voucher Program: Lawmakers in Utah narrowly approved a public supported voucher program that is the most extensive in the nation. The new program will provide between $500 and $3000 in public funds per year per student, depending on family income, to pay for private school tuition. The bill, HB 148 (Urquhart), was signed into law by Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. on February 12, 2007. The voucher program is estimated to cost $9.3 million the first year, and up to $48 million per year in thirteen years. Students currently enrolled in private schools are not eligible, unless they qualify for free and reduced price lunch. For more information visit and
7) Is Education in a Crisis? The Brookings Institute released on February 14, 2007 a report called "An Education Strategy to Promote Opportunity, Prosperity & Growth" by Joshua Bendor, Jason Bordoff, and Jason Furman. This report is part of a series of research papers produced by the Brookings Institute that focus on reforming education through innovative policy solutions, including improving teacher quality, expanding early childhood education, addressing learning loss during the summer, and expanding access higher education.
According to the report,
"Throughout the twentieth century, much of our educational gains came from expanding the number of years of schooling for much of the American population. In the twenty-first century, the potential gains from increased schooling will be far more limited, so it is critical that we focus our energy on improving the quality of schooling that students currently receive. Doing so requires that we first take stock of where our education system is wanting, and then that we map out and prioritize potential reforms." p. 6.
"Mindful of this plea for caution, it is important to recognize that, despite the unquestionable need to make education reform a national priority, educational outcomes in the United States have actually been improving, albeit modestly, over the past few decades." p. 8
"Nonetheless, there is significant reason to worry that the U.S. education system is failing to realize its potential- partly because of underinvestment and partly because of structural barriers to high performance." p. 8.
The report shows that education is critical to broad-based economic growth; investments in education yield large returns to both society and the individual; and expanding access to high-quality education directly addresses one of the major causes of increased inequality: technological changes that increasingly reward skilled workers.
The report recommends several education reform strategies, including expanding early childhood education; improving school accountability systems; expanding market forces within the current educational system; reevaluating the teacher tenure system; expanding support for disadvantaged children; and changing the federal student financial aid system.
8) Survey of School Partnerships: DeHavilland Associates recently released the results of a survey on community and school partnerships called the "2007 Survey of External Support for K-12 School Districts". DeHavilland Associates is a consulting and communications firm that designs, manages, and evaluates outreach campaigns and partnership initiatives between the business and education communities.
According to the report, "By identifying the wide range of prospective partners in the community and beyond, and by exploring the different ways in which they work with schools and districts, professionals on both sides of the partnership equation can begin to think more broadly about how to establish successful partnerships to benefit both our schools and their contributing partners. This survey lays the groundwork for such explorations - and provides a foundation for future research in this important, but often overlooked, facet of public education." p. 8.
The 2007 survey found that school districts have developed many partnerships with community groups and organizations, but little is really known about their structure, and most districts do not have established procedures to recruit or monitor partnerships. Business partnerships, parent organizations, and booster clubs are ranked highly by districts in the survey. School districts also state that they would prefer to increase partnerships with business coalitions, individual businesses, and foundations. Suburban districts report having more support from partnerships than urban or rural districts. 46 percent of school districts report receiving support from a local education fund or school foundation. The full report is available at
Please Note: DeHavilland Association has several resources on its web site to support partnerships and collaborations between the business and school communities. These resources were developed from the business perspective, but provide web sites, organizational models, and communication and evaluation tools that school districts, parent organizations, or advocates for public education can use to develop or improve outreach initiatives.
9) The NAEP Report Card Released: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), National Center for Education Statistics, released two reports on February 22, 2007 highlighting 12th student achievement and the types of courses that students completed in 2005. The two reports, the Nation's Report Card -- "12th Grade Reading and Mathematics 2005" and "America's High School Graduates 2005", show a decline in reading scores in spite of reported increases in the number of advanced courses that students reported taking. Reading scores have declined from 80 percent in 1992 to 73 percent in 2007. The results for mathematics show that 77 percent of 12th grade students were below proficient and 39 percent were below basic levels. The results for mathematics could not be compared to previous years, because the NAEP assessment in mathematics has changed. The results indicate that a closer examination of the rigor of the content of high school courses is in order. The report is available at

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Computer help: The hidden toolbar in IE 7

Display Those Menus
Are you among the many who downloaded the new version of Internet Explorer (Version 7)? If so, you've probably been dealing with some changes from the earlier versions ever since. One of the main things that changed with IE 7 was the disappearance of the File, Edit, View, Favorites, Tools and Help menus. In IE 6, you could always count on those menus being available, but for some reason, they are hidden in the new browser. Here's how to get them back.
If you want to get them back temporarily (maybe you only need them for a quick second), just hit the Alt key on your keyboard and the menus will appear. Once they show up, you can do whatever you need to do with them.
If you want the menus to be available permanently, click on the Tools button and choose Menu Bar. Or hit the Alt key (the temporary way) and when the menus appear, go directly to View, Toolbars, Menu Bar. Either way, all of those helpful menus will stay put for good. If you ever want to hide them again, just reverse the above actions.

RH Jones: The AARP stand on mandatory Social Security

From RH Jones, February 25, 2007
Subject: The AARP stand on Mandatory Soc. Sec.
To all:
In 1998, as a 26-yr. AARP member, I wrote a letter to the AARP CEO Bill Novelli and a different letter, but with the same subject, to the 1998 AARP Pres. Joe Perkins. Ironically, I received a letter back from Novelli that stated: "Since your membership has ended, AARP has added many new and improved member benefits." They were then listed and I made note of this one in particular: "You can count on AARP to speak up for your rights. AARP is your voice in Washington and your state capital, leading the battle to preserve your pension and retirement benefits, fighting against age discrimination, and more." It is quite obvious that they did not speak for the right of all educators in the 15-states that have state retirement systems.
And, even presently, the AARP web-site in "Open Letter to AARP Members" CEO Bill Novelli & the 2006 Pres. Marie F. Smith mentioned this: "Benefits based on contributions for all who pay into Social Security." This is their AARP stand yet today. Where is all of our Soc. Sec. earned benefits? The following is part of my letter to Novelli (Concerning the Windfall Elimination Provision[WEP] You may use any or part of it in your correspondence to the AARP or to your congressmen/women and your senators):
Re: Strongly object to your stand on mandatory Social Security for all employees.
Please be reminded that you represent all AARP members. You do not speak for me when you say that you are for mandatory Social Security (SS) for all public employees. This will substantially hurt me because it will make less monies available for my Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) to invest in our nation's stock and bond markets which is the main source of my income and health care insurance.
Wisely, public employees of 15 states set up a system that would be independent of the federal government. The Ohio STRS "grandfathers" SS by 15 years and by trying to make SS mandatory will only hurt both systems. Since 1920, we (educators) have enjoyed a fine retirement system and do not wish to be part of SS.
All public employee retirement systems will be in slow cancerous death. First, it will involve a long legal battle that will deny money for benefits to both SS and STRS. Second, the increased SS funding will only be for a couple of years at which time SS would then have to start paying out to many thousands of new beneficiaries. Third, the states that do have public worker retirement systems would not be supplying investment money into America's businesses severely cutting into their ability to raise funds for research and development; therefore, curtailing employment of those who pay into SS. Because of this, workers and the whole economy will suffer. Didn't we learn anything from the fall of Soviet Communism?
You may be "biting the hand that feeds you." The AARP stand on this issue has already resulted in many members tearing up their membership cards.
Robert Hudson Jones, AARP "Valued Member" for 26-years.

Update on John Lazares

From Sondra Stratton, February 24, 2007
Subject: letter from John Lazares
I got a short letter from John Lazares yesterday. He was thanking me for all the cards, thoughts and prayers. He said that he had been in a tremendous amount of pain and is not able to walk due to not having a knee joint. John said that his replacement surgery is scheduled for Mar. 5th, however, as of the writing of the letter this week, the infection in his knee is still not gone.
Keep John in your thoughts and prayers that the infection in his knee will heal quickly so that he can get his surgery and get back on his feet. I know that for someone as active as John, this immobility is driving his nuts!
I also hope that the surgery is NOT done until the infection is all gone so that John does not risk having this same problem all over. As one who has had complete knee replacement, I can understand some of what John has gone through. It is painful enough to have a successful knee replacement with no unusual problems let alone deal with all the pain that John has had to deal with for so long. So much pain surely wears one down!!!
Thought everyone would like to know what I heard from him.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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