Friday, September 11, 2009

Shirlee Zerkel: A response from Laura Ecklar

From Shirlee Zerkel, September 11, 2009
Subject: Fwd: Thanks for your quick response!
This is the answer I finally received from Ms. Ecklar after I emails to her my 4th request for an answer. She sure can talk around the issue as to why we can not sit at the table and discuss with the Board like Leipensperger and Hanning did at the meetings. Shirlee
From Laura Ecklar, September 11, 2009
Subj: RE: Thanks for your quick response!
Dear Ms. Zerkel,
In reply to your question below, I believe that throughout the many months of discussion that the board held as it developed its long-range contingency plan, many individual STRS Ohio members were engaged in the process. As you noted, members spoke during the board meetings and sent many, many e-mails and letters sharing their viewpoints to both board and staff members. I can also tell you that Mr. Nehf and other STRS Ohio staff members had an opportunity to speak with members and engage in very meaningful conversations at a number of meetings attended by retirees and actives around the state. Just as an example, since March, when the board began its discussions, presentations (and, of course, question-and-answer periods) have been made to more than 40 gatherings, including meetings sponsored by county RTA chapters, OEA-R and Delta Kappa Gamma. Board members, including those who were just elected this year, also heard from and had discussions with their colleagues about the very important issues facing them.
I might add that in board presentations, as well as the presentation to the Ohio Retirement Study Council earlier this week, the input provided by active and retired members was reported. It was noted that:
STRS Ohio members want to preserve the Defined Benefit Plan.
STRS Ohio members value the health care program.
Some actives and employers hope for some sort of transition to avoid a “stampede” of retirements.
The cost of the enhanced 35-year benefit is a concern to some.
The COLA has helped current retirees manage increased costs.
There is a concern about retirees most vulnerable to the impact of a reduced COLA, those who retired many years ago.
Consideration should be given to active teachers working longer because they are in a better position to adjust their retirement plans versus those who are closer to retirement or already retired.
The input received from STRS Ohio members has been a critical component of the discussions and decision-making to this point, and will continue to be an important element going forward as discussions continue with the Ohio Retirement Study Council and other members of the Legislature.
As always, thank you for your interest and concern.
From Shirlee Zerkel, August 27, 2009
Subject: Thanks for your quick response!
Dear Ms. Esklar:
I want to thank you for your very quick response to the email I sent to Mr. Nehf. I did check in the current STRS Ohio newsletter and it did state that the HPA was serving in an advisory capacity, but I was surprised to find them seated with the Board at the regular monthly meeting.
In your email to me you stated that the Board some months ago agreed that input from the HPA, as well as from individual members would be encouraged. I, as an individual member, would like to know what a member needs to do in order have similar input in the Board discussions. I know we have the public speaks portion of the meeting and the emails but those are one-sided; they are not discussion.
Thank you and I am looking forward to your answer,
Shirlee Zerkel
OEA-R Life member
CORE member
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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