Saturday, November 03, 2007

Union County RTA to STRS Board: Play your watchdog role and pass Dr. Leone's motion

From David Speicher, November 3, 2007
Subject: Dennis Leone's tabled STRS motion
To the STRS Board:
I'm writing on behalf of the Union County Retired Teachers Association (UCRTA). At its regular meeting November 2, 2007, the UCRTA unanimously passed a motion to strongly urge the STRS Board to take off the table Dennis Leone's motion as of October 19, 2007, to limit the ability of the STRS Executive Director to establish, on his own, STRS employee compensation and fringe benefits without STRS Board approval, in an open meeting. And to pass this motion during the November STRS Board's meetings.
It is our belief that the STRS Executive Director has clear policy guidelines on the extent of his authority in these matters and he should not continually test or exceed his authority.
The STRS Board needs to play the "watchdog" role more effectively and affirm their responsibility in supervising the spending of retirees' money.
The members of the UCRTA will be looking at your vote, with the expectation that you will publicly support Dr. Leone's motion to safeguard retirees' funds.
Thank you.
David Speicher
Chm. Legislative Committee
Union County Retired Teachers Association

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A retiree comments.....

Received from an STRS retiree
November 3, 2007

Rich DeColibus -- this man is obviously very intelligent and humanitarian, like Dennis. And, like Dennis, I think he has scruples that the STRS board members, (and Damon, etc.) cannot ever relate to. You see, he has a sense of right and wrong and great integrity. If ALL the Board members had those qualities, they could understand where Dennis is coming from. They all need a course in Right and Wrong 101.
When people lack integrity and a sense of fairness, they have no business trying to direct affairs that affect the very souls of thousands and thousands of retirees. They have a "What's in it for me?" attitude, and there is not a noble bone in their entire bodies! They are snipers, sleuths and takers who live underground like moles, and they cannot look you in the eye when they are talking to anyone. Have I made my point clear to you?
I have great compassion for people who are being taken advantage of by thoughtless individuals, and that is the situation with the STRS Board members who oppose Dennis. What can the retirees do to demand the resignations of Damon and his buddies? It's time to clean house, and a leader needs to emerge to lead the charge! I liken what we need to the French Revolution, stopping short of using the guillotine! Viva la State Teachers!!

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Dr. Leone’s Full Motion as presented to the STRS Board October 19, 2007

October 19, 2007
Dennis Leone

1. In the event that retirees are employed at STRS Ohio, the executive director will ensure that said new employees begin their employment at STRS Ohio with zero days of sick leave.

2. Payment by STRS Ohio of private/personal legal fees of STRS Ohio employees will not occur.

3. The awarding of severance packages, severance payments, or severance benefits to current or former STRS Ohio employees will not occur absent a formal approval of the STRS Ohio Retirement Board, by majority vote, in public session.
October 19, 2007
Dennis Leone
Resolution Authorizing Administrative Officers to Act for the STRS Ohio Retirement Board in all matters related to Personnel and Current Expenses.
.....1. ...Remove the words:
...............“all matters” from the heading of the resolution.
,,,,,2. ...Remove from the third paragraph:
..............."in all matters related to the employment and compensation of personnel.”
.....3. ...Add to the end of the third paragraph:
...............“and provided that such actions are consistent with Board adopted policies.”

........WHEREAS, the State Teachers Retirement Board of Ohio has adopted salary schedules for the compensation of all personnel, and a budget of expenses necessary for the proper operation of the System as provided by Section 3307.11, Revised Code, and
........WHEREAS, Section 3307.04, Revised Code, provides that the State Teachers Retirement Board of Ohio may authorize its administrative officers to act for the Board in accordance with such salary schedules and budget;
........THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Executive Director or a Deputy Executive Director be authorized to act for the Board in all matters related to the employment and compensation of personnel and to make expenditures for all expenses not in excess of the total amount budgeted for current expenses, provided that administrative and/or project-based operating expenditures of $100,000 or more shall not occur without a formal vote of the Board, and
........BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that all expenditures by such administrative officers be subject to subsequent approval by the Board.
October 19, 2007
Dennis Leone
Motion to change language in existing Board policy entitled “Delegation to the Executive Director,” on page 41, paragraph B of the Board Policy Manual (see attached):
Current language: “……the Executive Director is authorized to establish all further policies, make all decisions, take all actions, and develop all activities as long as they are consistent with a reasonable interpretation of the Board’s policies.”
The above current policy is inconsistent with the language of the Board adopted “Executive Director’s Job Description” on page 42 of the Board Policy Manual (see attached), which reads, in part:
“…...exercises all authority transmitted into the organization by the Board.”
“.…..organizational operations within the boundaries of prudence and ethics established in the Board.”
Current language also is inconsistent with the language of existing Board policy entitled “Executive Director Limitations on Compensation and Benefits” on page 54 of the Board Policy Manual (see attached), which reads in part:
“…...he/she (the Executive Director) may not establish current compensation or benefits that are not within the Board-approved salary schedules or benefit provisions.”
Proposed language change for page 41, paragraph B of the Board Policy Manual under “Delegation to the Executive Director:
“…….the Executive Director is authorized to implement decisions that are consistent with Board policies.”
The above language would supplant current language on page 41, paragraph B that begins: “the Executive [Director] is authorized to establish all further policies, make all decisions, take all actions, and develop all activities……….”
(P. 41 of Board Policy Manual)
While the Board job is generally confined to establishing the broadest policies, implementation and subsidiary policy development is delegated to the Executive Director.
A. All Board authority delegated to associates is delegated through the Executive Director, so that all authority and accountability of associates – as far as the Board is concerned – is considered to be the authority and accountability of the Executive Director.
B. Ends policies direct the Executive Director to achieve certain results; Executive Director Limitations policies constrain the Executive Director to act according to law and within acceptable boundaries of prudence and ethics. With respect to Ends and Executive Director Limitations, the Executive Director is authorized to establish all further policies, make all decisions, take all actions and develop all activities as long as they are consistent with a reasonable interpretation of the Board’s policies.
C. The Board may change its policies, thereby shifting the boundary between Board and Executive Director domains. Consequently, the Board may change the latitude of choice given to the Executive Director, but so long as any particular delegation is in place, the Board and its members will respect and support the Executive Director’s choices. This does not prevent the Board from obtaining information in the delegated areas.
D. No Board member or officer has authority over the Executive Director, except Board committees working within the scope of their respective charters. Information may be requested by these individuals or groups. However, if such request – in the Executive Director’s judgment – requires a material amount of staff time or funds or is disruptive, it may be refused.
(Rev. 3-99)
(P. 42 of Board Policy Manual)
As the Board’s single official link to the operating organization, the Executive Director is accountable for all organizational performance and exercises all authority transmitted into the organization by the Board.
The Executive Director’s job contributions can be stated as performance in these areas:
A. Organizational accomplishment of the provisions of Board policies on Ends.
B. Organizational operation within the boundaries of prudence and ethics established in Board policies on Executive Director Limitations.
C. Serving as Secretary to the Retirement Board and maintaining an accurate record of its proceedings. (Such a record is to contain only the action of the Board, information required by case law and the vote thereon.)
(Rev. 3-99)
(P. 54 of Board Policy Manual)
With respect to employment, compensation and benefits to associates, consultants, contract workers and volunteers, the Executive Director may not cause or allow jeopardy to fiscal integrity or public image.
Accordingly, he or she may not:
A. Change his or her own compensation and benefits.
B. Promise or imply permanent or guaranteed employment.
C. Establish current compensation or benefits that are not within Board-approved salary schedules or benefit provisions.
D. In the selection of a Deputy Executive Director or the Executive Assistant to the Board, fail to involve the Board in determining the qualifications and expectations for the position. The Executive Director will then make the employment decision, keeping the Board informed throughout the process.
(Rev. 3-99; 2-03)

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RH Jones: Kent State professor union handout

From RH Jones, November 3, 2007
These highly educated citizens (most with Ph.D.'s) offer their opinion in support of HB 315:
“There is no such thing as a secure retirement without affordable health care. HB 315 would create a dedicated revenue stream, funded by active teachers, to ensure long-term solvency of STRS health care benefits.
This plan is endorsed by a coalition of employees, employers and retirees with a goal of providing access to affordable health care for current and future retired teachers.
The STRS health care plan provides affordable coverage for over 114,000 retired teachers. It makes sense to secure this program for the future rather than risk adding to the ranks of uninsured Ohioans.
Active teachers support this proposal. Current law does not allow any portion of the employee contribution to go towards securing health care. We would rather pay a manageable amount of money while we are working than be saddled with the entire cost of health care coverage in retirement.
This proposal has benefits for employers. Without access to affordable health care, teachers will be forced to work longer and longer. The aging teacher workforce drives up salaries and health care costs for school districts.”
District and State College School Boards need to take notice of: “Current law does not allow any portion of the employee contribution to go towards securing health care.” The OASBO & OSBA want STRS to pick up the cost. How can they? Law restricts them. But, if HB 315 passes, the STRS, in a way, will pick up the costs of this due to the teachers retiring sooner. Conversely, the Ohio School Boards will pickup the tab if HB 315 fails and teachers fail to go into retirement. This is quite obvious to any reasonably educated person.
Robert Hudson Jones, a retired Ohio STRS member

Friday, November 02, 2007

Rich DeColibus to STRS Board: Some words of advice

From Rich DeColibus, October 25, 2007
Subject: The Responsibility of Authority
Dear STRS Board Members,
I have been given to understand there is some confusion over the lines of authority between yourself, as an STRS Board Member, and the administration. If you will bear with me for a short while, I have some thoughts on the issue.
You are bestowed authority by virtue of being elected by the constituency which STRS serves (both retired and active). As a former teacher and Past President of the Cleveland Teachers Union, I can understand this is a difficult and tricky responsibility. The administrators of STRS have zero authority because they are not elected and, in America at least, have no legitimacy outside of that conferred on them by elected officials (you). STRS also has appointed members, but they are all appointed by elected officials and serve as watchdogs for the various state agencies which have interests and concerns with respect to STRS issues.
Having dealt over the years with many Superintendents, no one has more respect for them individually or collectively than I do. President of the CTU was a miserable job, but it was a heckuva lot better than what they had to go through. They frequently had to deal with unreasonable Boards of Education, unhappy parents, unsatisfied communities, and a whole lot of other aggravations I watched from the sidelines (and was very glad to leave to them). My experience as part of Ohio Federation of Teachers also led me to conclude whether it was a 72,000 pupil district or a 3,000 pupil district didn't matter all that much.
More to the point, though, almost all of them recognized their ultimate subservience to the Boards they served. Their Board members were elected, they were not, and the legitimacy that comes from being elected superceded in all cases the desire of the administrators to run things in a way they felt was most correct. Sometimes they were right, sometimes they were wrong, but it really doesn't matter. The responsibility for all the decisions any Superintendent (and other administrators down the line) makes still falls on the Board members. As a matter of responsible policy, then, so does ALL the authority for those decisions. In short, no matter how badly your administrators screw up, the buck stops on your desk. You also get credit when they do great things (but, then, nobody seems to notice that!).
In fundamental terms, and like most government agencies, you are not there to run the operation. You are there to watch the people who run the operation. Administrators are there to administer, which amounts to the nuts and bolts of ensuring the organization fulfills the reason it exists. Having had experience with Board of Education members who micromanage, and the experience of Board members who are strictly "hands-off", all I can say is Aristotle's golden mean is a concept with great value. STRS is a little different, though, because you're working with billions (with a "B") of dollars and have over a hundred thousand individuals who depend almost entirely on your good judgment for their quality of life (and another hundred thousand who eventually hope to). I would encourage you to error on the side of over-supervision, if for no other reason than the recent embarrassing history of under-supervision. It is your primary responsibility and the number of people who depend on you getting it right is staggering.
As a general rule I followed when I was CTU President negotiating contracts with my own staff (small, but very competent and very vocal!), I believed the staff members could not, and should not, do better than the members they served. If teachers didn't get those benefits, then neither did my staff members. By the same token, you need to be careful STRS employees do not enjoy benefits and monetary rewards considerably better than the teachers who are paying into the system. Of course you should recognize excellence and reward diligence, but in the background there's always the question: "Will Mary Smith, the third-grade teacher in rural Ohio making $21,000/year with five years experience, consider this reasonable?" That may not be much of a gold standard, but it's the most valid one you have to balance on the scale of fairness.
It is terribly easy to justify any decision you make, however good or bad it may be. The capacity of humans to explain away bad choices is, in my experience, close to infinite, and a testimony to the inherent intelligence of the human race. You need never worry about having to justify your decisions. What you do need to consider is the Mary Smith standard because, when push comes to shove, that's how everyone else will judge your judgment. I understand clearly the election dynamics of how STRS Board members are elected, and I know a few of you personally, and I am not standing on a soap box preaching "You won't get elected if you make bad decisions." The reality is you probably will be elected, depending on election dynamics, no matter how good or bad your judgment is. What is more important, though, is what legacy you will leave behind. I had the insight of knowing almost all of the old Cleveland Board of Education members, and practically to a person, they were caring, intelligent, and of good character. Despite that, as a Board of Education, they were, frankly, just horrible. The few of you I do know are outstanding individuals, and what I am hoping is you will walk that fine line between over-management and under-management. As I iterated before, your responsibility is not to run the show, but keep a careful eye on those who do. Given STRS's reputation is at stake, it is not a task for the fainthearted, nor have I much interest in giving the Ohio General Assembly ANY excuse to muddle in our waters.
I wish you all well, both individually and collectively, and there is no need for you to respond to this. I said my piece and you may decide for yourself if it has merit.
Rich DeColibus

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Molly Janczyk: This is not a social club

From Molly Janczyk, November 1, 2007
Kathie Bracy’s complete documentation has been circulated, including the all-important reference to existing board policy on page 54 of the Board Policy Manual that already restricts Damon from establishing compensation and benefits that are NOT within board-adopted compensation schedules and benefit provisions. Any reasonable mind should be able to see that issuing severance checks and free health insurance was contrary to this policy, in my opinion. While the so-called policy was developed by Herb [Dyer] in 2002, as I understand this, and used to lay off 2 people in 2002 (again without board involvement or a board vote), it was Damon who admittedly revised the invisible policy on 9-11-06 (also without board knowledge, board involvement or a board vote). Why did he revise it? My understanding: A few months earlier, the board cut staff perks in 6 areas, which meant that if he didn't revise his procedure, laid-off employees would have perks that current staff no longer had. He was less than forthright, in my opinion, for not telling the board what was going on in 2006. Turning a blind eye is not forthcoming to membership nor is it following their fiduciary duty. Why was a tabling action needed to vote on whether legal fees should be paid in the future, or whether the exec. director can allow a rehired retiree to bring in 200 days of sick leave that he already was paid for in a severance check from his school district?
It seems circulating incomplete data to make points is not forthcoming. It seems that some Board members are not comprehensive in their understanding that their first duty is to retirees and not staff or management.
It is often said that personalities should not be reason for action of any kind. True. Board members, let the law speak to you and not personal feelings! Hear the message and not let personal attitudes be your guide. No matter what, right is right and only be exercising your fiduciary duty which some call micromanaging, is what you are there for. Let me remind you of all the changes which have occurred due to the label of micromanaging!
SOME areas of change:
..Improved oversight of expenditures by the Exec. Direc. who needs to ask the STRS Board regarding large vendor contracts now fought for by Leone and Lazares.
..Ethics Policy now in place due to John Lazares
..SB 133 with Leone language in the bill regarding former convicted Board members of Ethics violations.
..Eliminated subsidies paid by retirees for childcare (almost eliminated), fitness and cafeteria: Leone report
..Revised policy for annual reimbursement of unused vacation and sick leave for staff: Leone and Lazares
..No documentation; no vote on large vendor contracts stopping the policy of blanket approval without knowing content. LONG fought for by Lazares and Leone taking months for other Board members to approve due to?????????????????????? What was called micromanagement; we call it proper oversight and just plain smart to know what one is approving to remove possible ramifications.
..Credit cards, car use: eliminated or greatly reduced: Leone and Lazares
..Travel policy restricting money spent: Leone
..Changes to bonus policies : Leone and Lazares
((CORE has stood behind Leone and Lazares making its wishes known at each STRS Board meeting in support of our two elected Board members sent to STRS to change status quo)).
Where in this are the names of other Board members some of whom have fought against change and greater oversight citing STRS Staff and STRS legal advice for their reasoning vs. taking it upon themselves to thoroughly research outside of STRS sources wishing to maintain perks for staff and management? Where did Board members go to research outside their organizations and STRS to maintain independence and search for unbiased information on all sides before voting?
TWO Board members seek truth without prejudice regardless of popularity or being swayed to play nice and get along and stop micromanaging: Leone and Lazares who have withstood overwhelming frustration just to get Board members to read the wording and act prudently and judiciously on behalf of membership. So, when I hear personalities, I agree! Stop letting personality interfere with truth and honesty and transparency and act : "SOLELY ON BEHALF OF MEMBERSHIP": according to the Ohio Revised Code: 3307.15
This is not a social club; it is a passionate move for change at STRS and has been hard fought by CORE's Board Members: Dennis Leone and John Lazares. I have heard NO other Board members' names resulting in positive changes or policies on this Board.
Where IS YOUR NAME for change, oversight, protection and prudence?
Status quo, rubberstamping, silence or do you have the heart to stand for membership and when your stand meets resistance, do you have the courage to stand up for it or buckle to go along due to pressure NOT to micromanage or get too specifically into language and policy. It is easier to obey what you are told.
Leone and Lazares come monthly to hear nothing but resistance and face brick walls. Month after month fighting for simple right: Do document; no vote on contracts. Language which already exists against actions. etc, etc. How would you feel walking into that room every month? It is not simply a difference of opinion or personality when it is simple plain common sense issues.
Yet it takes months to stand against those brick walls. Constant frustration gets the best of all at times.

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How YOU can help get HB 315 passed

Contacting Legislators

(from STRS)

There are several ways you can contact your legislator:

  • Write a letter.
  • Send an e-mail message.
  • Schedule a meeting in Columbus or in the district.
  • Invite a legislator to a meeting of your group.
  • Have a casual conversation, such as at a county fair or other event in the district.

If you are having a meeting with a legislator, plan your visit carefully:

  • Be prompt and be patient. It is not uncommon for a legislator to be late, or to have a meeting interrupted, due to the legislator’s crowded schedule. If interruptions do occur, be flexible. When the opportunity presents itself, continue your meeting with the legislator’s staff.
  • Be prepared. Be clear about what you want to achieve in your visit; you are there to discuss the health care funding initiative only. Don’t assume the legislator knows all the details of the proposal. Use the one-page initiative summary to assist you in your presentation.
  • Be polite. Don’t degrade your legislators or the opposition, and don’t impugn their motives.
  • Be politically astute. Demonstrate the connection between what you are requesting and the interests of the legislator’s constituency.
  • Be responsive. Answer questions or provide additional information if requested. However, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” if you are unsure of an answer. STRS Ohio staff can provide you with an answer to provide to the legislator or staff member.
  • Ask the legislator if he/she supports the legislation. If the legislator does not, ask what it would take to gain his/her support, or if he/she has an alternative solution.
  • Follow up. Write a “thank you” letter that outlines the different points covered during the meeting, and send along any additional information and materials requested.

If you are writing to a legislator, many of the same tips apply:

  • Make your message short and succinct; focus on the topic of health care funding. Try to keep your letter to one page, stating the purpose at the beginning. Don’t send a form letter or card.
  • Include commendation for past actions by the legislator; don’t threaten or degrade the legislator.
  • Ask the legislator for his/her position on the initiative.
  • Include your address and sign your name.
  • Follow up if you receive a reply. Thank the legislator for responding. If he/she agreed with your position, ask the legislator to take a leadership role. If the legislator expresses opposition, ask what he/she would propose as an alternative solution. Also offer to provide additional information to help make the case.

How to find your legislators:

Web site links have been provided on the Health Care Champions Web site. If you do not have Internet access, call STRS Ohio’s Governmental Relations office at (614) 227-2983 and staff will provide the information you need.

Additional considerations:

Let us know if you have a meeting or hear from a legislator. You can do this by completing a meeting feedback form available on the Health Care Champions Web site. You can also mail or fax a copy of the completed form to: Terri Bierdeman, STRS Ohio, 275 E. Broad St., Columbus, OH 43215-4771; fax, (614) 744-3341.

CORE resolution of support for Dennis Leone's motion of October 19, 2007

TO: STRS Board Members
November 2007
On October 19, 2007, Dr. Dennis Leone made a motion (which John Lazares seconded) for language to require the enforcement of existing STRS Board policies that are designed to restrict the ability of the STRS Executive Director to establish—on his own—STRS employee compensation and fringe benefits without formal Board approval. The motion was tabled.
CORE urges the STRS Board to approve the motion at its November meeting for the following reasons:
1. There is a serious conflict of at least five policies of the Executive Director’s authority. Three policies require Board approval and two policies permit the Executive Director to act then request Board approval. There may be legal and/or ethical issues due to the conflicting policies.
2. The five policies in question need to be reviewed as soon as possible by the STRS Internal Auditor and the Attorney General’s Counselor for legal and ethical issues and problems as well as the date of STRS Board approval for each of the policies and the history of how each of the policies was developed. Of concern, is the possibility that Ohio Revised Code has been violated due to the conflicting policies. The STRS Internal Auditor and the Attorney General’s Counselor must present their findings to the STRS Board in a timely fashion along with recommendations to resolve the conflict of the policies and any legal or ethical issues.
3. An Executive Director’s administrative duties are governed by Board policy. It is inconceivable that the STRS Board would be able in good conscience to approve a contract for an Executive Director while there are conflicting Board policies. Therefore, the STRS Board must act quickly to have the legal and ethical questions answered and resolved prior to offering any Executive Director Contract in the future.
CORE again urges the STRS Board to resolve this conflict of policies affecting the Executive Director’s Administrative duties promptly. Such action ensures that STRS administration operates legally, ethically and effectively.
David Parshall, CORE President
Mary Ellen Angeletti, CORE Vice President
XC: STRS Internal Auditor
Attorney General’s Counselor, John Patterson

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Jim N. Reed: Checks and Balances...Where have they gone at STRS?

Jim N. Reed to Dennis Leone, November 1, 2007
Dr. Leone, just a note to express my gratitude for your recent well constructed letter of chastisement of Damon Asbury's abuse of his Executive Branch authority at STRS. Recent actions and lack thereof from the Board indicates a lack of understanding of the constitutional principle of "separation of powers" and its resulting product, the "balance of power."
This basic facet of the constitutional rule of law has been abrogated by a majority of this Board. It's embarrassing and insulting to me as a retiree to realize that these policy makers, sworn to abide by 3307.15 and their fiduciary duties, are apparently ignorant of their most fundamental of duty. What more basic but crucial duty do they have than to legislate policy and demand the execution of that policy as written? The majority of the present Board seems to be taking on the character flaws of past boards, one of which was to succumb to "rubber stamping" for an out-of-control Executive. It looks like Yogi's "deja vu all over again!"
Those boards were not only painfully ineffective in watching over STRS funds but they were unethical and eventually judged illegal. What was their major pitfall? Being "Yes-Men/Women" to an arrogant, unresponsive Executive Director who lead them to believing they were entitled to their conduct even when members became the victims of their abuse.
Thanks, again, Dennis. You have to feel like you're in the "Twilight Zone" at times.
Jim N. Reed

From Dennis Leone, November 1, 2007
........and just imagine, Jim, what our school boards would have done to us if they learned, after the fact, that we (without their knowledge) issued severance checks and free health insurance to teachers that were laid off due to a Reduction in Force.
Dennis Leone

Voting out adversaries

RH Jones to John Curry, November 1, 2007
Subject: Re: OSBA has another bed partner...with educator friends like these, who needs enemies?
My Norton School Board just released a "Letter to the Editor", signed by 5-members, in the West Side Leader, 11-.01-07, opposing HB 315. It was released in time for me not to vote for any of them. I hope other retired teachers across the state will vote in new board members as well. The present ones obviously do not know what they are doing. I have heard of not one Ohio School Board Member pushing for passage of this cost saving HB 315. Do they not realize that older teachers, who cost them the most, will hang on longer? Being ignorant of school law and school finance, they have failed their children and the business community.
RHJones, a voting resident of Norton

OSBA has another bed partner...with educator friends like these, who needs enemies?

From John Curry, November 1, 2007
Most of you know that the Ohio School Boards Association is badmouthing HB what else is new? Well, OSBA has a bed partner that also is fighting against our retirement future. Who is it? It's the OASBO! What does this moniker stand for? It is the Ohio Association of School Business Officials. Check out this combined news release that is located on the OSBA website. With friends like these...who needs enemies? Below is a link to that joint news release.
The OASBO's board can be found by clicking on the following link:
The OASBO staff can be found here:

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

RH Jones: Do students benefit from NCLB tests?

From RH Jones, October 31, 2007
To all:
“Your Money - Making a Profit Off Kids
Over the last two years, 23 states across the country have added more than 11.3 million reading and math tests to their school curricula in order to keep up with the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Law. Michigan alone has tacked on more than 1 million in new tests; New York, more than 1.7 million. While experts are debating whether increased testing helps kids learn more, most agree that it does mean big bucks for the testing industry. (which includes tutoring, test prep courses and the tests themselves) is now an estimated 2.3 billion a year enterprise, with just five big companies controlling 90% of the statewide testing revenue.”
The above quote was taken exactly as written from the Parade Magazine of Oct. 28, 2007, page 10 or visit: PARADE. COM.
If you are tired of politicians making profits off kids and spending 2.3 billion on tests instead of on instruction. Please take the time to vote them OUT OF OFFICE.
My opinion,
RHJones, a proud member of the CORE

RH Jones: Retirement concerns

From RH Jones, October 31, 2007
Hello (xxx),
(xxx) has asked me to connect you with our Concerned Ohio Retired Educator (CORE) news line. The BEST place to get the real information that active and retired teachers need is to go to Kathie Bracy’s blog: I will begin to e-mail you some of her info. Also, you can find out about this relatively new organization by going to the CORE site: The Core group membership is only $5 per year and is open to both active and retired teachers. [Note: CORE no longer assesses dues as such, but gladly accepts contributions to the CORE Legal Fund.] Our goal is the same: to improve retiree benefits. Please copy this message and put it on the bulletin board at Ellet or any other school you may wish to do so.
The following is some of my personal concerns regarding the passage of HB 315 – the HC funding increase:
1. The bill has been put into committee to either live or die. At the moment without the help of thousands of educators, it will die. (I am concerned that the AEA is not doing enough to promote it. I e-mail Bill Siegfreth daily with retiree info but I have seen very little in the AEA newsletter. Bill has been relaying on the Summit County Retired Teacher Association (SummitCRTA) for retired teacher concerns. However, it has some neo-conservatives (Mr. Peepers types) in it that are causing many problems, negative to retired teacher progress. Dr. K. Fluke has been the best leader in the group. He has been the point of the sword for over 15 yrs. and has worked very hard for our interests. Albeit with a lot of abuse from the Mr. Peepers types. The Ohio Retired Teacher Association (ORTA) has similar problems with the Mr. Peepers types. That is why we started the new organization called CORE. For years, once you were ORTA president, your next step was to be the retired member seat on the STRS Board. CORE stopped that progression a couple years ago.).
2. Rep. Bob Otterman has been quiet about HB 315, I have tried to contact him with no response -- on this critical issue for future and present retired teachers of which he is one. Legislators can tap into the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System (OPERS). The OPERS has better retiree benefits than STRS, especially in Health Care (HC). Rep Brian Williams has phoned me and is working quietly behind the scenes to get HB 315 passed. Perhaps Otterman is too, I just have not heard from him. And everybody knows where GOP (Grab Our Pension) Rep Kevin Coughlin stands. He is a champion of Charter Schools. As reported in the Beacon, White Hat, David Brennan, has financed his political career.
Dr. Fluke and I have been trying to get improved benefits for years now. We thought that we could retire in peace, NOT. However, I do feel that if HB 315 passes HC benefits will become affordable for future and present retirees. Thanks for volunteering to help. We need all the active teachers helping us. “Retirement is not retirement without HC!”
I can be reached by e-mail at: I do not do too well by phone. Dr. Fluke does; he can be reached at: (xxx).
Thanks again for your concern,
Bob Jones

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jim Kimmel: An Open Letter to All Ohio Senators

October 24, 2007
(Street address)
Mason, OH 45040

Ohio Senate
Columbus, Ohio
Dear Senators:
I am writing to request your support for Senate Bill 315. It is imperative that legislation is passed for a dedicated revenue stream to the STRS Healthcare Stabilization Fund. This is supported by virtually all retired and active educators in this state as well as OEA, AFT, ORTA and others. There are very good reasons for supporting 315. I realize that you are being lobbied by the OSBA and others who oppose the bill. They need to realize how shortsighted opposition to the bill really is. As will be indicated below, 315 will actually save school districts money.
1. There has been NO increase in the school board contribution to STRS in over 20 years! School districts have seen increased expenses in everything from chalk to textbooks in that time. Why do they think it should be any different for STRS contributions?
2. There are many negative consequences of 315's failure for school districts which will cost them more than a .5 percent increase a year for 5 years. They can pay that now or a lot more later:
• Teachers will continue to teach into their 60's and 70's because they won't be able to afford health insurance in retirement. That will cost the districts more due to an older staff, more sick days, more substitute teachers, and higher group health insurance premiums for the district based on industry standards. This is already happening throughout Ohio.
• Older teachers' salaries are often twice that of a beginning teacher. Put another way, a district can hire at least two new teachers for every veteran who retires.
• Teachers will demand higher salaries because they would look forward to NO health insurance in retirement. This could lead to strikes, impasse, and other unpleasant and disruptive labor difficulties.
• Teacher candidates will seek employment in other states where they can be more confident in their future retirement status because THERE CAN BE NO RETIREMENT WITHOUT ADEQUATE HEALTH INSURANCE. Beginning teachers today are much more aware of retirement details than we retirees were when we began. .
• College students will change majors for other professions . Few go into education now because they will leave college with $100,000 or more of debt and would begin teaching for $35,000 or perhaps less. Not many feel comfortable with that in their future, let alone a retirement 30 years later with no health insurance.
• The violence in our schools causes increased peril for both students and teachers. We have recently seen in Cleveland two teachers shot in the line of duty and an Akron teacher stabbed. Professionals facing this (in both poor and wealthy districts) should be able to look forward to a retirement that includes adequate and affordable health care.
There are those who say that teachers "retire too early. Let them teach until they are 65 and get Medicare!" Most of these are members of the business and corporate community who, unless they are war veterans, have never been shot at in their lives. What many forget is that in the middle 1930's STRS was established because of the special nature of the teaching profession. It was decided that 30 years was sufficient for full retirement because teaching is stressful and because the low pay made it necessary to have a system with a better return than Social Security. It is a good thing, too, because teachers who do other work in summers and pay into Social Security receive only one third of their actual Social Security benefit in retirement if they get a teaching pension. Most would be willing to teach summers if they were paid for it. Police and Fire personnel also can retire after 20 or 30 years because of the strenuous and dangerous nature of their work. How many of you would like to teach junior high students into your '60's, afraid to retire because you couldn't afford health insurance? It is one thing to be an accountant,lawyer, or corporate manager into your 60's and beyond. Quite another to be a teacher, police officer, or firefighter at that age.
The vast majority of active and retired educators in your districts support SB 315. Probably many OSBA and local school board members do not. Which group do you think will have more votes to cast in the ballot box come November ?
Please Support SB 315. It is the RIGHT thing to do!!
James O. Kimmel, M.Ed
Proud CORE member
STRS Retiree
Ohio Air National Guard 1963-1969


Monday, October 29, 2007

Dennis Leone: Board Indecisiveness Harmful to Legislative Initiatives

By Dennis Leone
STRS Board Member
October 22, 2007
Many lawmakers I have spoken with are undecided about House Bill 315 because in many ways, they are undecided about STRS in general. Sometimes, I feel, the Board shoots itself in the foot by its indecisiveness and its inability to properly address many issues - especially those dealing with policies.
At the STRS Board meeting on Friday, October 19, I made a motion (which John Lazares seconded) for language to require the enforcement of existing Board policies that are designed to restrict the ability of the STRS Executive Director to establish - on his own - STRS employee compensation and fringe benefits without formal board approval. Upon a substitute motion by Steve Puckett, the board voted 6-2 to table my motion. (John Lazares joined me in dissent, while Board members Tom Johnson and Tai Hayden were absent for the vote.) The Board's inability to deal with this problem is very upsetting and a disservice to the entire membership of STRS.
There have been recent examples of the Board not being given the opportunity to vote on issues that should have come to the Board for a formal vote. The Board did not vote on the decision to pay the private legal fees of STRS employees (two of which earn in excess of $100,000 per year at STRS), and nor was the Board given the opportunity to vote on the $93,000 in cash severance checks and free health insurance given recently to laid-off STRS employees. What do you think would happen to any school superintendent who awarded severance checks and free health insurance to laid-off employees without a formal School Board vote authorizing such? I am also aware of a decision from a few years ago - that occurred without a formal Board approval - when a retiree was rehired at STRS and said retiree was allowed to bring his accumulated sick leave with him to STRS, even though he had received a sick leave severance check from his previous public employer. This would translate into a second, big sick leave severance check upon departure from STRS.
Existing adopted policies of the STRS Board state:
1. "The Executive Director exercises all authority transmitted into the organization by the Board." Note the words "by the Board." (Page 42 of Board Policy Manual, first paragraph.)

2. "The Executive Director's job contributions can be stated as performance in the following areas: Organizational operations within the boundaries of prudence and ethics established in Board policies." Note the words "established in Board policies." (Page 42 of Board Policy Manual, paragraph B.)
3. "He or she (the Executive Director) may not establish current compensation or benefits that are not within Board-approved salary schedules or benefit provisions." Note the words "compensation or benefits that are not within Board-approved salary schedules or benefit provisions." (Page 41 of Board Policy Manual, paragraph C.)
The Board has allowed the Executive Director to supersede and bypass the above policies because of two other policies that exist - one that says he is "authorized to act for the Board in all matters related to the employment and compensation of personnel…..(with) expenditures subject to subsequent approval by the Board," and a second one that says he is "authorized to establish all further policies, make all decisions, take all actions, and develop all activities as long as they are consistent with a reasonable interpretation of the Board's policies." See how these two policies are in basic conflict with the three policies above?
When additional Board policies allow the Executive Director to supersede original Board policies, "to act for the Board in all matters related to the employment and compensation of personnel," and "to establish all further policies," this causes me to wonder - I told my fellow Board members on 10-19-07 - why there is a Board, except to do things like approve minutes and adopt insurance rates. My main point is this:
Since a long-standing Board policy stipulates that the Executive Director may not establish employee compensation and benefits "that are not within Board-approved salary schedules or benefit provisions," how is it possible that another "policy" developed later by the Executive Director (without Board action) can supersede an original policy? The Executive Director's ability "to establish all further policies" cannot give him, in my opinion, a special right to knock out a policy already on the books. I contend that the Executive Director is without authority to implement his own policies (without formal Board action) that supersede other Board policies.
After the Board voted to table my motion to address this matter, I told my fellow board members that tabling was a cop-out and that it would harm our legislative initiatives. Board members tell me I am disrespectful to them. This may be, but it can't be any more disrespectful than the Board majority has been when they vote to raise my STRS retiree health insurance premiums, while - at the same time - allow the Executive Director to spend pension money as he sees fit and adopt his own "further" policies without formal Board action. The clever way an Executive Director gets his/her Board to "approve" such things is for them to be buried in the monthly expenditure report, which the Board adopts on a monthly basis without really knowing what individual actions and expenditures are in there. This happens monthly and makes the Executive Director's decisions official legal, after the fact.
I know what will happen next. The staff will give a boatload of reasons why no adjustments should occur to policies and the Board majority will be intimidated by what they are told - which is what happened when I initially recommended a policy requiring the Board to review summaries of big ticket vendor contracts before the Board votes on them. (This was initially rejected 8-2 after the staff warned the Board that increased involvement on their part might increase their personal liability. It passed, finally, two months later, by a 7-2 vote.) The staff also, in the recent past, wrongly told the Board that is was okay to go into executive session to discuss proposed policies (which is flagrantly against Ohio law) and to adopt a settlement agreement without having a document in hand (which is just plain dumb).
It is difficult to serve on a Board where the Executive Director is allowed to adopt his own policies and procedures that can supersede existing Board policies. What happened with the payment of employee private legal fees and the awarding of cash severance checks and free health insurance to laid-off employees is precisely the same kind of nonsense we saw with the "old" Board.

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Molly Janczyk to STRS Board re November vote on Dennis Leone's motion

From Molly Janczyk, October 28, 2007
Subject: Dr. Leone's motion

STRS Board: Please support Dennis Leone's motion for language to require the enforcement of existing STRS Board policies designed to restrict the Exec. Director's ability to establish, on his own, without STRS Board approval, STRS employee compensation and fringe benefits. This motion is up for your vote at the Nov. Board Meeting.
I would further request this vote take place at the Thurs. session for the STRS Nov. 2007 Board Meeting as it is of major importance to STRS retirees.
Prudence and oversight of retiree monies is fundamental to every Board Member's fiduciary duty as is existing Board policy.
Molly Janczyk
STRS Retiree

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RH Jones: Backing our "lion"

From RH Jones, October 29, 2007
Subject: Our lion: the gray power of thousands
To all:
This CORE member wants to intensify the fight for passage of HB 315. We are fighting those who have money and power over the Ohio legislature. The only way we can defeat them is with our gray people power in the thousands. Let our thousands be heard!
Note: The rich power mongers “…would rather fight a den of lions led by a sheep, rather than a herd of sheep led by a lion.” said Dennis Courtland Hayes, interim director, NAACP, Sunday, at the Akron Tangier Restaurant organizational meeting. For we STRS retired educators, our lion leader on the STRS board is Dr. Dennis Leone [leone is Italian for "lion"]; and we sheep, also, need to back him 100% in his fight for STRS retirees.
RHJones, a sheep, proud to be a CORE member

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Jim Kimmel: Letter to STRS Board

October 27, 2007
Some of the old issues on the STRS Board are still unresolved. This became apparent to me when I learned that Dr. Dennis Leone's recent motion was tabled. Dr. Leone's voice of reason was once again basically ignored by the majority of the board. He moved to restrict Executive Director Asbury from doing a number of things which should have been decided by the board BEFORE he took action. These restrictions are not some new idea. These restrictions are already listed in the STRS Board Policy Manual. By allowing Mr. Asbury or any future executive director to run roughshod over any STRS policy shows irresponsibility on the part of those who allow it. Here are some examples of such actions which should have been presented to the board for approval BEFORE they were implemented: There are probably many more…
1. Establishing employee compensation and fringe benefits unilaterally.
2. Granting private legal fees for certain STRS employees without formal board approval.
3. Allowing Damon to spend up to $100,000.00 without prior board approval. I never did find out if this is for one year, or if he can spend up to that amount on multiple occasions. Either way that is too much latitude. I believe Damon wanted a million dollars' worth of discretion and would most likely have received it if Leone and Lazares had not spoken up.
4. Then there is the matter of allowing former public service STRS employees to transfer their unused sick leave days to STRS in SPITE of the fact that they received payment for them from their previous employer. They will again be remunerated for those same unused sick leave days (if still unused) from STRS.
5. Regarding HB 151 (divestment), the board caved in. You were promised immunity if accused of abrogating your fiduciary responsibility in the process of divestment. DON'T COUNT ON IT! 151 is on shaky legal and economic ground. As long as you are on the board you ARE responsible. And I would ask why would you accept immunity from your fiduciary responsibility even in this one instance? What other board duties would you shirk if given the chance? If divestment were the right thing to do you would not need immunity.
The Executive Director works for the board which represents the retirees and those who will someday retire. Additionally, by allowing the executive director to make decisions that you either approve after the fact or not at all, you allow yourselves legal liability. You would not be the first board members indicted for something you could have avoided by using common sense and good judgment. So do not allow yourself to be the "fall guy" when someone else causes you to fail in your fiduciary and ethical responsibilities. Allowing such things has placed others in serious legal trouble.
I cannot understand why some board members allow such things as mentioned to happen. Dr. Leone and Mr. Lazares want to make positive changes. Yet many vote against them on the board. I can think of only two reasons: (1) you do not understand (which I doubt) or (2) you are obeying some other "party line" the identity of which I can only guess.
What can possibly turn you the wrong way on so many issues ? Only you can answer that. Just remember that the board policies are clear about the responsibility of the board and that of the executive director. He should present to the board all significant matters and get approval BEFORE acting on them.It seems like he does things in the shadows and then you seem to claim that wonderful excuse called "plausible deniability". In the long run, that never works (remember Watergate?).
A time comes when someone finds a flashlight and suddenly all the nasty critters run for cover. Please work with Leone and Lazares . Their leadership can make things better for retirees by following Ohio Law as it pertains to STRS. As a veteran teacher and school administrator, I know how far a school superintendent would get if he did half the things Damon does without his board approval. He would soon be looking for a new job! Please consider all this with an open mind and heart. We STILL need a new direction for STRS. Maybe a new director as well!!
One other very important point: The opponents of HB 315 argue that STRS is still not well managed and that the board has made bad decisions. Cooperation with Lazares and Leone can show a change in board attitude. It would be a real shame if the board's lack of backbone caused loss of 315 and subsequent financial and medical hardship for many retirees. I assume you care about such things……
Yours truly,
James O. Kimmel
STRS Retiree
Proud CORE Member.

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