Saturday, November 18, 2006

Letters to legislators: Please appoint Tom Hall

November 18, 2006
To The Honorable Jon Husted,
Speaker of The Ohio House of Representatives
Re: Please appoint Prof. Tom Hall to the STRS Board
Dear Rep. Husted,
I am writing you and Sen. Harris to urge you to appoint Dr. Tom Hall, Miami University Professor of Economics, to the STRS Board to fill the vacancy left by Geoffrey Meyers.
Besides being extremely highly qualified in the field of investments, as a contributor to STRS, Dr. Hall has one more invaluable credential: HE IS ONE OF US; an attribute that was sorely lacking in Mr. Meyers and which created major credibility problems for him.
The link below will take you to a page outlining Dr. Hall's qualifications and credentials; this material was used in his bid last spring for a seat on the STRS Board.
Thank you for your consideration. WE NEED TOM HALL.
Katherine B. Bracy
Retired teacher
(Street address)
Columbus, OH
(Phone number)
November 18, 2006
To The Honorable Bill Harris,
President of The Ohio Senate
Re: Please appoint Prof. Tom Hall to the STRS Board
Dear Senator Harris,
I am writing you and Rep. Husted to urge you to appoint Dr. Tom Hall, Miami University Professor of Economics, to the STRS Board to fill the vacancy left by Geoffrey Meyers.
Besides being extremely highly qualified in the field of investments, as a contributor to STRS, Dr. Hall has one more invaluable credential: HE IS ONE OF US; an attribute that was sorely lacking in Mr. Meyers and which created major credibility problems for him.
The link below will take you to a page outlining Dr. Hall's qualifications and credentials; this material was used in his bid last spring for a seat on the STRS Board.
Thank you for your consideration. WE NEED TOM HALL.
Katherine B. Bracy
Retired teacher
(Street address)
Columbus, OH
(Phone number)
November 18, 2006
To The Honorable Linda Reidelbach
The Ohio House of Representatives
Re: Please support appointment of Dr. Tom Hall to the STRS Board
Dear Rep. Reidelbach,
I am writing to urge you to support a joint appointment by Rep. Husted and Sen. Harris of Dr. Tom Hall, Miami University Professor of Economics, to the STRS Board to fill the vacancy left by Geoffrey Meyers.
Besides being extremely highly qualified in the field of investments, as a contributor to STRS, Dr. Hall has one more invaluable credential: HE IS ONE OF US; an attribute that was sorely lacking in Mr. Meyers and which created major credibility problems for him.
The link below will take you to a page outlining Dr. Hall's qualifications and credentials; this material was used in his bid last spring for a seat on the STRS Board.
Thank you for your consideration. WE NEED TOM HALL.
Katherine B. Bracy
Retired teacher
(Street address)
Columbus, OH
(Phone number)
November 18, 2006
To Senator David Goodman
The Ohio Senate
Re: Please support appointment of Dr. Tom Hall to the STRS Board
Dear Senator Goodman,
I am writing to urge you to support a joint appointment by Rep. Husted and Sen. Harris of Dr. Tom Hall, Miami University Professor of Economics, to the STRS Board to fill the vacancy left by Geoffrey Meyers.
Besides being extremely highly qualified in the field of investments, as a contributor to STRS, Dr. Hall has one more invaluable credential: HE IS ONE OF US; an attribute that was sorely lacking in Mr. Meyers and which created major credibility problems for him.
The link below will take you to a page outlining Dr. Hall's qualifications and credentials; this material was used in his bid last spring for a seat on the STRS Board.
Thank you for your consideration. WE NEED TOM HALL.
Katherine B. Bracy
Retired teacher
(Street address)
Columbus, OH
(Phone number)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Shirlee to Sandra re: Questions about preventive services in basic policy

From Shirlee Zerkel, November 17, 2006
Subject: Re: Questions about preventive services in basic policy
Ms. Knoesel:
I still feel that a member can only make the best decision about which plan to take for 2007 if they know all the services provided in each policy offered.
At this time I am asking for a copy of Basic Plan Preventive Services Coverage Enhanced for 2007 to be sent to my; home, and I still expect to see the mailing that you spoke if that is to be sent to us in December.
Also, have the health care premiums and benefits (both for single and family) for employees of STRS been decided yet? If so I want a copy sent to me.
Thank you,

Sandra Knoesel to Shirlee Zerkel re: Questions about preventive services in basic policy

From Sandra Knoesel, November 17, 2006

Dear Mrs. Zerkel:

I received your e-mail about the information retirees receive regarding their health care options. STRS Ohio agrees it is important for members and retirees to receive information they need about their health care options. We appreciate feedback from our retirees and will take your suggestions into consideration.

Based on previous overwhelming feedback from multiple member surveys, STRS Ohio learned retirees wanted the health care information they received to be simplified. Based on this feedback, STRS Ohio now sends retirees an/a:

  • Annual Open-Enrollment Guide,
  • STRS Ohio Health Care Plan Options and Premiums Sheet, and
  • Plan Overview Chart.

The Health Care Program booklet entitled “Your STRS Ohio Health Care Plan Options” is sent initially to all new benefit recipients and health care enrollees, to enrollees when they turn age 65 and to current retirees when requested.

Regarding your questions about the Basic Plan’s preventive services coverage, we send a handout entitled “Basic Plan Preventive Services Coverage Enhanced for 2007” to retirees who ask questions about this enhancement. As you referenced, this information may also be found on the STRS Ohio Web site. It is important to note the “designated services” covered have not changed; the only change is whether the services are subject to the deductible. STRS Ohio and its plan administrators followed national guidelines.

STRS Ohio is working with the plan administrators to ensure patient services are coded and paid correctly; however, when an enrollee goes into a provider’s office for a preventive service and also indicates they have another health concern that may result in additional testing, proper coding can be complicated. That is why it is important for doctors to keep track of patients’ preventive services versus other routine services. To continue educating Basic Plan enrollees, STRS Ohio will be sending an information piece in December that further explains the preventive services benefit.

Health care issues are complex. STRS Ohio is committed to providing information you and other retirees need to make informed decisions about the STRS Ohio Health Care Program. You may also call the Member Services Center toll-free at 1-888-227-7877 if you have any further questions.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and opinions with us.

Sandra L. Knoesel

Deputy Executive Director - Member Benefits

Dennis Leone: Proposed Amendment to Board Policy Entitled “Board Member Travel and Expenses”

Proposed Amendment to Board Policy Entitled

“Board Member Travel and Expenses” (Pages 17-19 of Policy Manual)

By Dennis Leone

November 16, 2006

  1. STRS funds will not be utilized to purchase credit cards for Board members and board members will not be issued credit cards by STRS.
  2. STRS will not permit payments or reimbursements to Board members for long distance telephone calls that are not connected to STRS business.
  3. STRS will not pay for overnight lodging in Columbus for Board members after Board meetings, absent adverse weather-related conditions and/or a mechanical breakdown of said Board member’s motor vehicle.
  4. STRS will not pay for overnight lodging for Board members on the day AFTER conferences end, absent adverse weather-related conditions and/or the cancellation of Board member’s airline flight.
  5. STRS Board members who wish to attend conferences requiring airline transportation are required to secure their reservation at least 30 days in advance. Board members who choose not to secure airline reservations at least 30 days in advance will be required to pay the difference in cost between the two tickets.
  6. STRS will not pay any additional fees charged by airline companies when ticket reservations are charged by Board members due to personal reasons – before or after conferences.
  7. Board members will not be reimbursed for expenses associated with attending a meeting unless documentation can be provided by the organization inviting the Board member that stipulates the Board member was invited to speak at said meeting.
  8. Exceptions to the above policy amendments will require a majority vote of the full STRS Board.

Proposed Amendment to Board Policy Entitled “Code of Ethics”

  1. STRS will not pay for or provide computers, home Internet connections, home telephones, cell phones, or fax lines for Board members. Board members will be permitted to check out STRS laptop computers immediately prior to the first day of business associated with a Board meeting or an approved conference, assuming – of course – that said laptop computer will be used only for STRS-related business and not for personal business.

Wal-Mart nails Caremark once again -- Pravachol now available for $4 a "pop"

Wal-Mart Crushes Pharmacy Stocks Again
By Melissa Davis

Senior Writer

11/17/2006 2:25 PM EST

(Click here to view published article, also shown below)

Wal-Mart (WMT) has given pharmacy benefit managers another bitter pill to swallow.

This week, the heavyweight retailer added the generic form of Pravachol -- a popular cholesterol-lowering medication -- to its new $4-a-month prescription drug program. The addition of the drug, which lost its exclusivity just weeks ago, ranks as the biggest threat yet to PBMs that enjoy fat margins on non-branded drugs.

UBS analyst Ricky Goldwasser sounds worried.

"The significance of adding a drug such as Pravachol to the list is twofold," he explains. "First, as a newer drug, it is a more profitable drug to pharmacies and PBMs compared to other drugs on the list. Second, it raises the question as to whether Wal-Mart will add additional drugs as they exit (the) 180-day exclusivity period."

Importantly, Goldwasser asks, could generic forms of blockbusters Zocor and Zoloft - both expected to boost future PBM profits significantly - be next on Wal-Mart's list? Given the latest development, he says, the chances for this look higher.

Goldwasser therefore remains on the sidelines with neutral ratings on all three PBM stocks. Medco (MHS) fell the hardest on Friday, dropping 4.3% to $49.46. Express Scripts (ESRX) slid 3.8% to $67.41. Meanwhile, Caremark (CMX) - which is merging with CVS (CVS) in a move viewed defensive by some - got off the easiest. Its shares slipped 2.4% to $47.46

From STRS: November Board News Details Retirement Board Actions and Discussions

From STRS, November 17, 2006
November Board News Details Retirement Board Actions and Discussions
This week, the State Teachers Retirement Board held its monthly meeting. Following the regularly scheduled meetings, a report titled "Board News" is posted on the STRS Ohio Web site, as well as mailed to a number of members and education organization representatives who have requested it. As a member of STRS Ohio with an e-mail address on file, you will also receive this report each month. The November report follows.
NEW MEMBER SELECTED FOR VACANT SEAT; ELECTION PROCESS BEGINS FOR SPRING ELECTION Taiyia L. Hayden was selected by the current eight Retirement Board members to fill the contributing member seat vacated by Michael Billirakis in September. She will complete Billirakis' term, which runs through Aug. 31, 2007. Hayden is a kindergarten teacher in the Columbus Public Schools, where she has worked for the past 10 years. She received her bachelor's degree from Central State University and has done graduate work at The Ohio State University and Walden University.
Should Hayden want to continue in her board seat beyond August 2007, she will have to run in the spring 2007 election. The process for that election began this month with the mailing of notices to all STRS Ohio reporting employers and representatives of educational organizations on Nov. 10, announcing the upcoming election. The four-year term for this contributing member seat begins on Sept. 1, 2007, and ends on Aug. 31,
2011. Petition forms can be obtained from STRS Ohio by calling toll-free
1-888-285-2192. The deadline for return of petitions is Feb. 23, 2007.
MEDICARE PART B REIMBURSEMENT AMOUNT SET During its November meeting, the Retirement Board determined the Medicare Part B premium reimbursement for calendar year 2007. Under Ohio statute, STRS Ohio is required to pay a minimum of $29.90 per month, and may pay up to 90% of the Medicare Part B (medical) premium for STRS Ohio benefit recipients. In calendar years 2004 and 2005, the board kept the reimbursement amount frozen at the 2003 amount to help maintain the solvency of the Health Care Stabilization Fund. However, for calendar year 2006, the board increased the reimbursement amount, with the reimbursement cap returning to the 2003 amount thereafter.
In keeping with its decision last year, the board has returned to the
2003 reimbursement amount for calendar year 2007. This means the reimbursement amount will be 1.8835% for each year of service credit. The maximum amount STRS Ohio will pay is $52.83 a month for retirees with 30 or more years of service. The benefit recipient is responsible for the balance of the basic Medicare Part B premium, which totals $93.50 per month for calendar year 2007. Reimbursement amounts are based on years of service, with the minimum monthly reimbursement from STRS Ohio remaining at $29.90 for benefit recipients with less than 17 years of service.
This reimbursement amount maintains the solvency of the Health Care Stabilization Fund and supports the current health care legislative initiative. This initiative calls for a total increase in member and employer contributions of 5% to fund the current level of health care coverage on a full-reserve basis (i.e., a 30-year funding period). If the Medicare Part B premium reimbursement was increased beyond the 2003 levels, it is likely that more than 5% would be needed.
MEMBER SURVEY RESULTS PRESENTED Dr. Marty Saperstein of Saperstein Associates presented the results of this year's telephone surveys of STRS Ohio active and retired members that were completed in October 2006. The research measures the membership's perceptions and attitudes about a number of issues. The results were also compared to previous surveys conducted in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
In summarizing the research results, Saperstein noted that, overall, impressions of STRS Ohio, the Retirement Board and the pension benefits provided are positive among both retired and active members. However, members' impressions about health care are not as positive -- and these perceptions ripple through all the data and create a ceiling for how positive members can feel about the organization. Health care is the top issue among both actives and retirees -- primarily due to cost.
A number of factors contribute to members' positive impressions about STRS Ohio, including past changes in leadership and practices; improved investment returns; excellent service by staff; and open and honest communication about issues of relevance to members. At the same time, the research results show it is important that STRS Ohio continue to address members' priorities, which are health care; financial management, including operating expenditures; and maintaining pension benefits.
Additional details about the survey results will be included in the February 2007 issues of the STRS Ohio newsletters to members and benefit recipients.
ANNUAL ACTUARIAL VALUATION REPORT ACCEPTED During its November meeting, the Retirement Board voted to accept the annual actuarial valuation report of STRS Ohio's pension fund for July 1, 2006, from its actuary, Buck Consultants. The report shows that STRS Ohio made advances in the two primary measures of funding progress. The funded ratio improved to 76.1% from 74% in 2005, and the amortization period for the unfunded liability declined to 47.7 years from 55.5 years. The board also voted to maintain the 5% annual interest rate on money purchase benefits and reemployed retiree annuities for the 2006-2007 fiscal year (July 1, 2006-June 30, 2007).
RETIREMENT, INVESTMENT TRANSACTIONS APPROVED The Retirement Board approved the following retirements and investment transactions:
- 257 active members were approved for service retirement; 59 inactive retirements were approved.
- In October, fixed-income purchases totaled $257.8 million, domestic equity purchases totaled $680.7 million and real estate purchases totaled $26.2 million.
DEMOCRATS TAKE BACK CONGRESS; BUSH AND NEW LEADERS LOOK TO SET ASIDE POLITICS The fall midterm elections allowed Democrats nationally to gain control of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. A lot was riding on these midterm elections -- all 435 House seats (though only a relatively small percentage were actually in play) and 33 Senate seats. While none of us had the ability to cast a ballot for or against President Bush's agenda for the next two years, it is by far one of the biggest things to be compromised by these elections. As the 2006 elections make way for the 110th Congress that will convene in January, chairmanship of all the committees will be relinquished by the current Republican occupants to Democrats. With all the changes in Washington, it remains to be seen how two issues of paramount importance to STRS Ohio members -- mandatory Social Security and health care -- will fare.
TECHNICAL CHANGES DRAFTED FOR POSSIBLE INTRODUCTION DURING LAME-DUCK SESSION STRS Ohio staff has drafted language for technical changes that had previously been sought through House Bill 272. These changes were originally presented to the Retirement Board in October 2005 for inclusion in H.B 272, the OPERS technical corrections bill. During the year, most non-OPERS items have been removed and, as a result, STRS Ohio staff is pursuing a technical corrections bill that contains changes presented in October 2005. These changes include:
- Change the "default" to the members' current plan for those members who have the final retirement plan selection option in their fifth year of membership.
- Restrict qualifying credit for service retirement, disability retirement and survivor benefits to service earned through public employment in Ohio. Current law makes it possible for a member to qualify for service retirement with as little as 1.25 years of Ohio public employment when combined with out-of-state and military service purchases.
- Specify the appropriate reemployment penalty for retirees who work the first two months of retirement.
- Specifically state the "Defined Benefit Plan," "Defined Contribution Plan" and "Combined Plan" in various sections of the code to clarify statutory references.
The STRS Ohio news e-mail list is designed solely to provide timely and accurate news and information about legislation, benefits and other issues affecting the STRS Ohio membership.
To view past news e-mails, go to
If you wish to comment on a topic, please either e-mail or call the Member Services Center toll-free at 1-888-227-7877.

Jim N. Reed to Senator Hottinger: Dr. Thomas Hall and The STRS Needs Your Support

Senator Hottinger, we met once briefly when you were a rookie in the General Assembly and you came to Baltimore, Ohio, to participate (on foot) in a community parade. As I introduced myself as a career teacher you assured me that education would always be a most important legislative priority during your tenure.
Now, as you leave the Ohio Senate, this constituent requests one more well-done service. I am contacting you to, again, participate. Many of Ohio's 400,000 active and retired educators would also certainly appreciate this positive "lame duck" gesture from the 31st Senate District.
During your era in the General Assembly the Ohio STRS has suffered several degrees of humiliation resulting from unethical misbehavior of Board members and a "dismissed" executive director. (I am assuming you were one of the majority of legislators who suggested Herb Dyer "take a hike." What you may not have realized is that Dyer did indeed leave before the door hit him in the posterior, with a $600,000 blessing from a rubber-stamp Board.)
Unfortunately, this injustice and obscene waste of hundreds of thousands of members' contributions was but a tip of the entitlement iceberg at STRS. Many of us have been left with meltdown residue and it's ugly. Many are literally suffering from the arrogance, corruption, and greed that was ingrained during the Dyer Disaster.
The attempts at cleaning up the "House That Herb Built" have been slowed by remnants of entitlement still residing in the Board room. Were it not for the inexhaustible efforts of Board members Dr. Dennis Leone and Mr. John Lazares to resurrect sorely needed oversight and rebuild some trust and faith among the membership many more educators would be suffering in retirement after lengthy, loyal careers.
As a profession, we require more Board members with a genuine dedication to what the STRS promised us all---an affordable, secure, well-deserved retirement for ourselves and our families via an absolute, unwavering adherence to ORC 3307.15.
As I am certain your are aware, one of the eleven STRS Board seats is filled by a member jointly appointed by the Speaker of The House, the Honorable Mr. Husted, and the President of The Senate, the Honorable Mr. Harris. Geoffrey Meyers, thankfully, has recently resigned his throne. Meyers was of the corporate mentality that nearly shattered decades of hundreds of thousands of stakeholders' contributions. The squandering of the members' stake in their retirement has been a fiscal atrocity.
There is an opportunity for the General Assembly to support a continued enlightenment within STRS under Dr. Leone's and Mr. Lazares' leadership by appointing a member of parallel philosophy, one who will accept nothing less than a literal interpretation of ORC. 3305.17. I am requesting you survey the credentials of Dr. Thomas Hall, PhD and economics professor at Miami University.
Dr. Hall is an acknowledged expert in the field of economics, both as an acclaimed instructor and author. His resume is extremely impressive. He has a personal investment in the STRS and he genuinely understands the current plight of so many stakeholders.
Too many of the serious "mistakes" that have become Board members were not qualified to be fiscal managers. ($65 billion requires astute, expert attention to detail.) I believe many were not even qualified to ask necessary questions so they opted to "rubber stamp" recommendations that were, in retrospect, obviously not for the benefit of the stakeholders. It seems that those that may have had a qualified background in economics failed public relations and compassion 101. Perhaps the missing ingredient was a lack of feeling for those economically hurting, a total disconnect between fiscal lifestyles.
I, as do thousands of others who voted in the spring Board elections, believe Dr. Thomas Hall can continue the restoration of trust and accountability in the STRS initiated by Mr. Lazares and Dr. Leone.
I am urging you, Senator Hottinger, to validate what I have stated by looking at the public records of STRS in the past 15 years as Dr. Leone did in his 2003 award-winning reports. If you find them, as I believe you will, credible then I would request you urgently recommend to Speaker Husted and President Harris the appointment of Dr. Thomas Hall to fill the General Assembly's vacant seat on the STRS Board.
Thank you for your immediate attention to what matters to so many of Ohio's educators, retired, active, and prospective.
Jim N. Reed
42-year teacher-coach
Liberty Union-Thurston Local Schools
Proud CORE member

Jim N. Reed to Senator-elect Schaffer: STRS needs Dr. Thomas Hall

From Jim N. Reed, November 17, 2006
Mr. Schaffer, as a concerned educator and Fairfield County constituent I request your assistance in promoting the name of Dr. Thomas Hall to the open STRS Board seat recently vacated by Geoffrey Meyers. Meyers was the joint appointee of the House Speaker and Senate President.

I would encourage you to review the qualifications of Dr. Hall for this extremely crucial appointment to Ohio's "recovering" STRS. As a champion of Ohio education who has campaigned frequently among Ohio's teachers ( I recall your participation in the dedication of the remodeled Liberty Union Elementary School), I believe your support and encouragement could make a difference when the General Assembly's new STRS Board appointee is named.

Your investigation of the controversy at the STRS during the past three years will alert you to the severity of the current condition of the state's retirement system. Unfortunately, Meyers was part of the problem. Most of the Dyer ( former relieved Executive Director) "Entitlement Regime" has been indicted and found guilty, plea-bargained, or resigned in disgrace. There is a STRS Board Renaissance in progress thanks to the efforts of Board members Dr. Dennis Leone and Mr. John Lazares who have personally sacrificed to serve. Their insistence on a strict observation of ORC 3307.15 has been a ray of hope for many discouraged retirees.

The Board needs to be implanted with members who will genuinely represent Ohio's prospective, active, and retired teachers. To accomplish this goal we must be represented by qualified and compassionate individuals who have a personal investment in their profession and who take pride in their performance. Too often we have witnessed a corporate mentality of arrogance, corruption, greed and exclusivity in this Board room. Frankly, it has frequently been an embarrassment to my profession.

Many of us believe that Dr. Thomas Hall can assist in the restoration of trust, confidence, and credibility in an STRS Board that has proven inept and dysfunctional in their disservice to many of the 140,000 retirees whose faith and trust was misplaced. Dr. Hall is an economics PhD at Miami University. He is well-recognized and respected as an educator and author and in this past spring's STRS Board election he received the third most votes cast by Ohio's active teachers. His expertise in investment, business cycles, and other economic issues would be an invaluable addition to the Board. Furthermore, and just as important, he would insist on unwavering adherence to ORC 3307.15.

As well-respected state representative and now as Senator-elect Schaffer, I strongly urge you to validate the credentials and qualification of Dr. Thomas Hall and encourage you to endorse and recommend his joint appointment to House Speaker Husted and Senate President Harris. ( I have previously contacted them with my sentiments.)
I express my appreciation in advance for your sincere attention to this critical legislative appointment.
Jim N. Reed
42-year educator
Liberty Union-Thurston Local Schools
Proud Member of CORE

June Hughes to Molly Janczyk: Soooooo, we lose more!!!!

From Molly Janczyk, November 17, 2006
Subject: RE: Soooooo, we lose more!!!!
Very true, June. Those of us who retired prior to the devastating and unbearable HC increases and loss of 'benefits' will never recover and have borne the brunt of saving HC for others. We have no choices and should have been grandfathered being told all would be fine and never able to return or change irrevocable decisions. There is no answer for us. Even the 5% only allows us to stay where we are somewhat and our spouses still have to pay 100%. It was the result of lack of long term planning and disregard for our futures, totally. STRS was headed, I believe, towards getting out of the HC business under Dyer and Co. and we pay the price.
If this didn't happen, we were told, after much questioning that 2008 would bring greater changes at once. We are lost to this crisis. Totally and completely and we will never again be comfortable with HC premiums, no matter that group retired. The best off are single recipients. Those with spouses on our policies can hope for nothing. Even Medicare becomes too costly for retirees.
It is beyond reach and we fight for the future retirees wishing we could get just a branch here and there but to no avail. It disheartens Lazares and Leone who voted no just to make the statement knowing it would pass. They are concerned with ensuring pensions as well with some systems in deep trouble in the press.
Wish there were some good news for those of us promised HC second to none and discouraged in STRS HC literature from purchasing other insurance. But, not to be. Retirees are drowning and this Board is charged with saving HC at all. Vigilant oversight and securing a stream of revenue decades ago for HC is lost. The hope is to have pensions and HC as it is, now.
Had we been told we were in such trouble when young and healthier, we might have acted differently, choosing other HC for spouses at least. Now with age and preexisting conditions, we have no choice. $800 a month premiums (and near $400 for those with Medicare with spouses) plus all the out of pocket costs for medical and RX's eats our pensions, robs us of our retirement and saddens our futures. $300 a month for RX's up to $2000; $1500 out of pocket for medical for my husband who always meets it due to multiple serious health problems; $500 deduc. for each of us and then my costs come to at least $15,000 annually for us- nearly 1/2 my pension.
Had I known, I could have been earning a huge salary by now by my standards and had much lower costs. I would have stayed for 35 years. But, I wasn't told and here I am.
I wish there were an answer. If I get sick, we are in trouble as I have an ill husband. I can still work but if I can't, we cannot afford our HC. My husband should be on disability and fortunately is a free agent so he can make his hours or he would not be able to work at all. He cannot afford to retire until he is 66 though worn and fatigued by it. Now, Medicare is so costly, I will never be able to really retire, I guess.
Robbed, cheated and not considered by the former Board and Exec Direc., yet here we are trying to survive and so many so worse off who cannot work at all.
From June Hughes, November 17, 2006
Subject: Soooooo, we lose more!!!!
Sooooooooo, the older retirees have already lost the 13th check which was part of our incomes and now we go backwards to 2003 for reimbursement of Medicare B. I have had NOTHING paid medically by my STRS insurance because most money is paid by Medicare OR ME! When will the bloodletting stop of those least able financially and some emotionally and physically? Where is the equality and consideration of those who paid before without question the percentage of income asked/required for a decent STRS retirement?
At one time I felt the Ohio STRS was the Lamborghini, well maybe a Ferrari, of teacher retirement systems. Now I wonder if it's even as good as an Edsel? Disgusting is my reaction to all this bleeding process by those who have yet to experience cold houses, driving less to have social get-togethers and the list could go on and on. As I've said before, we get a piddly 3% but lose much, much more because of poor negotiations for prescriptions, equal health insurance statewide (it's cheaper in some areas), losing the 13th check, and even though being enrolled in Medicare B we cost less, we are penalized for reimbursement from this cost.
This is discrimination at it's worst!!! Those on the board who aren't retired will some day hopefully understand and maybe they'll have to cut back from their life styles or will they wangle a position on the STRS board and get a credit card? Those of us retired for quite a few years are living on much less because we made less and it's getting worse!
June Hughes (disgusted in Hamilton Cnty)

Dave Parshall's speech to the STRS Board, November 16, 2006

Members of the Board and Director Asbury:

My name is David Parshall. I retired in 1999 after 32 years of teaching. I speak to you today as an individual member of the STRS family and not as the President of Core. It has been over a year since I last spoke to you. During this time I have attended every board meeting. I would like to share with you some concerns I have from what I have observed.
A number of active teachers from some wealthy districts have been brought before you to praise you, and to tell you how wonderful things are and how they and their various family members are looking forward to their retirement under the new 88% rule. You must also understand that for many active and retired teachers things are not nearly so rosy. I taught in a rural district and lived in Columbus. My neighbor who taught in Columbus with the same years of experience, but less training was paid over $18,000 more a year. This of course reflects on retirement benefits.
Perhaps, the most absurd comments came recently when a retired superintendent with 35 years of experience, and whose wife just retired with over 30 years in STRS, came before you to complain because as a recent rehired educator, he had to pay STRS for his healthcare. What he and others do not get is that he was asking STRS to subsidize his district. Funding of our public schools should be the responsibility of the state, and not retired teachers who during their careers already subsidized their districts with low salaries and by buying classroom supplies out of their own pockets. These egocentric comments were made in front of many retirees who are in a critical struggle to pay for their healthcare with a poverty level pension. Perhaps their only crime is that they have lived to long. The "me first generation" continues to rise up to bite us all. Please don't lose sight of the fact that we are only as strong as the weakest among us. We all expect that you work fairly for all of us.
Comments from one board member to another during the October board meeting were so outrageous that it boggles the mind. To question contracts or any issue before you, is your sworn responsibility. It is clear that past boards were just a rubber stamp for our corrupt former director. We expect you to know and understand where our money is going. This is not micro management. It is your ethical responsibility. Just because contracts were worked out and written by professionals does not mean they should just be rubber stamped. After all Tom Noe was a professional. We expect better of you. Do not be afraid to ask questions and to do what is best for all of us –in other words "oversight".
The Board members use of credit cards has become an issue once again. This is unfortunate. A second Freedom of Information Act request has been made for the records of these cards. Director Asbury assured me that he would send us a copy of the new strict guidelines. However, a recent letter from the STRS attorney suggests that maybe they will not comply. To not comply is an admission of guilt and smacks of a cover up. All the members of STRS expect you to be open and transparent. Some of the uses of the cards to date are at best questionable. The fact that the credit cards were again in use was shocking. Likewise the fact that cards have been turned in is encouraging. A cooling off period with true disclosure is clearly needed.
Also comments in praise of former board members who have been convicted have been made. As a forgiving human being, I know some of them clearly did some good works, but at the very moment they chose to accept gifts or rewards for which they knew they were not entitled to or to believe that they had earned these entitlements, they lost the right to claim these works. Their sole responsibility was to work for the interest of the teachers they were sworn to represent. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. Keep working for us all and always place the membership first. That is all we ask and what we expect.

Glenna Barr's speech to the STRS Board, November 16, 2006

Health Care is has been on everyone's mind. I was glad to read to read on your website that the Basic HC plan is offering several preventive services paid 100%. I am concerned about the Medicare subsidy being returned to the 2003 level. With other expenses such as higher HC co-pays, Medicare increases, higher heating and transportation costs, the retirees' economic plight worsens.
I have a question: what is going to happen to our prescription drug plan, its co-pay costs, and premium cost since CVS has bought Caremark? I have made inquiries at Walmart and other retail stores offering the cheaper co-pays on generic drugs, regarding their costs. Will CVS offer us the same?
I am interested in who will be appointed as a replacement for the active teacher place on the board. I would hope you consider this appointment very seriously. There is needed someone with finance and investment background as the board deals with these issues. I would like Tom Hall be considered for this position.
On the issue of travel, our board members do not need to go to the four corners of our nation for investment and financial information conferences. We have a very capable investment staff to hold these informative meetings and a wonderful conference center hold them in... I am sure there are many consultants and people of expertise in Ohio. IF I want more more information on my investments, I call my brokerage and go to their mini conferences. I know this is on a much smaller scale but it is the same concept.
On contingency plans: if we have another national disaster or Wall Street has another downturn as in 2000-2003, what would be your plans to protect our retirement system?
I would like for the board to be the best informed group of people so that good decisions can be made for us. They need to know all information on any items presented on the agenda. They should not blindly vote for or against a decision without studying those items. We are counting on you and on the staff to be the best you can be. The retirees expect no less.
Thank you,
Glenna Barr, 30 year retiree from Highland County.

Betsy Cook's speech before the STRS Board, November 16, 2006

Good afternoon, I am Betsy Cook an STRS retiree from Marietta, Ohio. It is a 2 hour drive each way to attend these STRS Board meetings. Since this is not what I want to do with my retirement time, I vote to elect Board members, such as you, to represent me. I thank you very much for your willingness to serve on the STRS Board. In a representative organization, the elected officials, yourselves, listen to your constituents, in this case active and retired educators, and represent their views and interests.
As an educator from Southeastern Ohio, where school districts are underfunded and personal income is below average, some of you are not representing us. A Board that was representing me would continue to reduce the budget. The small percentage you are cutting out of the budget is not adequate. Is the childcare center self-sustaining yet? Do you look for other ways to pay expenses such as employee legal fees, before you use my money? Are you trying to consolidate departments to vacate areas of the building so they could be leased out for future income? A Board that was representing me would act as an oversight body. Allowing the director to spend $100,000 before needing approval is not good oversight. Making decisions without contracts and documents to study makes for poor oversight. Asking questions and reviewing contracts carefully is the major responsibility of a Board. A Board that represents me would act in ways that develop trust and respect. I find it difficult to trust a Board that renews the director’s contract without putting it on the agenda for public notice. Why I ask myself? Mud slinging and being rude to others on the Board does not earn respect from those you represent.
The members of STRS have spent three years changing the Board members in hopes of having representatives that will be ethical, spend our money carefully, invest wisely, renew trust in our pension system and provide the health care we were promised. Was the Board being ethical when it renewed the director’s contract behind the backs of the membership? Was the Board spending our money wisely when they acted on contracts without reading them or allowing spending up to 1 hundred thousand dollars without approval of the Board? It appears you are investing wisely, so thank you. This new Board has not rebuilt my trust in STRS. I can only hope that you are working diligently with staff and the legislature to save our health care.
It disturbs me every time I come to this building. I am appalled that my hard earned money was spent on such a lavish facility with grand furnishings when I wonder if I will have health care should I become ill. My money subsidizes the child care of people that earn
2,3,5 times my income. When will this stop?
There are two Board members that have continually been in the minority when they vote. I thank Mr. Leone and Mr. Lazares for representing me as they try to change the status quo. I ask you to join Dennis and John in their effort to cut spending, practice effective oversight and listen to the STRS membership.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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