Friday, December 14, 2007

STRS report on December 2007 Board meeting; Board retreat scheduled for January 30-31

From STRS, December 14, 2007
Subject: [News] December 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 December report follows.
Clifton Gunderson completed its audit of the STRS Ohio financial statements for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2007. In reporting the results of the audit to the State Teachers Retirement Board at its Dec. 13, 2007, meeting, the auditors noted that the system's financial statements were fairly stated in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. During its audit, Clifton Gunderson also considered internal controls over financial reporting and tested compliance with certain laws and regulations. Its report indicated that no material weaknesses in internal controls or instances of statutory noncompliance were found. As a result, STRS Ohio received an unqualified opinion, which is the highest level of opinion that an organization can receive. STRS Ohio's financial statements are included in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which is available for viewing on STRS Ohio's Web site or by calling the Member Services Center (see article below).
Every year, STRS Ohio publishes its annual Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. This report has received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for 17 consecutive years, as well as recognition from the Public Pension Coordinating Council.
The current Comprehensive Annual Financial Report provides a detailed look at STRS Ohio's investment activities, plus financial, actuarial and statistical information for fiscal year 2007 (July 1, 2006-June 30, 2007). The report can be accessed through the STRS Ohio Web site at, beginning Dec. 26. Copies of the report can also be requested by calling STRS Ohio's Member Services Center toll-free at 1-888-227-7877.
The Columbus-based executive search firm, Hudepohl and Associates, has been chosen to assist the Retirement Board in its search for STRS Ohio's ninth executive director. Executive Director Damon Asbury announced in November that he plans to retire when his current contract with the Retirement Board ends on June 30, 2008. An ad hoc committee of the board, consisting of Jeffrey Chapman, who chaired the committee, Craig Brooks, Mary Ann Quilter Cervantes, John Lazares and Mark Meuser, reviewed proposals, checked references and conducted interviews of several firms before recommending Hudepohl and Associates to the full board. The committee determined that this firm offered the best overall combination of work plan, qualified staff, experience and cost structure to assist the board in recruiting an executive director.
In addition to its regularly scheduled meeting in January, the Retirement Board will hold its annual Planning Retreat on Jan. 30 and 31, 2008, at the STRS Ohio Building. The tentative agenda includes sessions on board governance, board policies and fiduciary responsibility; analysis of the four-year experience review of actuarial assumptions; and a review of STRS Ohio's associate severance policy.
In other action at the December meeting, the board rejected a motion requiring a formal board vote for the payment of associates' legal fees incurred with performance of their job duties. The vote followed lengthy discussion among board members and internal legal counsel and the Attorney General representative, who both indicated that the Ohio Revised Code already addresses these matters.
The Retirement Board approved the following retirements and investment transactions:
...• 149 active members for service retirement; 84 inactive retirements were approved.
...• In November, fixed-income purchases totaled $1.5 billion, domestic equity purchases totaled $2.3 billion and real estate purchases totaled $137 million.
More than 1,000 retirees attended one of the 25 "Health Care Plan 2008 Highlights" programs presented by the Member Education Department. Becky Frasher, assistant director - Member Education, reviewed the plan changes for 2008 as well as information to ensure a smooth transition to Express Scripts from Caremark. Staff members from Health Care Services were also on hand to answer questions, along with representatives from Aetna, Medical Mutual, Paramount and Express Scripts. Attendees were very appreciative of the information shared at the meeting, with four out of 10 rating the program a "perfect 10" on a 10-point scale while six out of 10 said the information provided rated a "perfect 10." Based on its success, this new program will be repeated in future years.
With the completion of additional training sessions in Columbus, Toledo and Lebanon in November, the number of Health Care Champions now totals 152 active and retired members. These individuals are volunteering their time in support of House Bill 315. Their activities have included contacting legislators, writing letters to the editor, contacting employers and sharing information with their colleagues.
To date, five individuals have requested petitions for the contributing member seat on the Retirement Board. The deadline for the return of petitions is Feb. 29, 2008.

Kathie Bracy to Bill Leibensperger: Exactly which motions is Ms. Frost-Brooks referring to?

From Kathie Bracy, December 14, 2007
Subject: Re: In the spirit of open communication

Thanks, Bill, for your letter and the text of Ms. Frost-Brooks' testimony to the STRS Board yesterday. I added both to my blog, with no omissions. I know many people will want to read them.
I was wondering if Ms. Frost-Brooks had written her presentation herself, since her words somehow had a very familiar ring, and knowing STRS Board policy dictates in a verbal policy statement presented by the Board president immediately prior to the Public Speaks portion of every Board meeting that speakers are to use their own words and not the words of someone else.
I know CORE members have taken this policy very seriously. I believe it came about at a time when some retirees wanted to speak for themselves, but were too far away and/or too ill to do so, and hoped that someone else could deliver their speeches for them. With OEA right next door, literally, it hardly seems the situation for Ms. Frost-Brooks or anyone else from there. I'm wondering why it's OK for STRS to bend the rules in this case -- for younger, healthier (and wealthier) people who are so close to the STRS building that driving there would be far more trouble than walking. I guess that's something I need to ask the STRS Board.
What I would really like for you to do is to send me a list of the motions Ms. Frost-Brooks specifically has in mind when she says:
The great work performed by the STRS Executive Director and staff in recent years should be reinforced by praise for finding ways to accomplish the objectives set by the Board. In doing its due diligence, the Board should be praised. However, any motions before the Board that would or could undermine trust and confidence between the Board, Executive Director and Staff, are not in the best interest of the system, and, in fact, may be unnecessary and counterproductive.
The significant external obstacles we face in achieving some of these objectives, especially those surrounding retiree healthcare, make this collaborative approach imperative. I urge in all of you the courage to trust. As the Board deliberates various motions today, at the January retreat, and into the future, we urge that these principles be kept in mind.
Since she did not make it clear, it would help to know exactly which motions she is talking about. It would certainly make it a lot easier to deal with them, so if you or she would be kind enough to provide such a list, I would be most appreciative.
Thanks again for writing.
Kathie Bracy

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A letter from Bill Leibensperger and Patricia Frost-Brooks' speech to the STRS Board, December 13, 2007

From Bill Leibensperger, December 14, 2007
In the spirit of open communication
Good morning, Kathie,
Attached please find the complete text of OEA President Frost-Brook's testimony to the STRS Board on December 13. Rather than the annotated summary that currently appears on your blog, this version is offered for the sake of accuracy, to promote transparency, and allow your readers to come to their own conclusions concerning its message. President Frost-Brooks was directed by the OEA Representative Assembly to deliver this testimony through a New Business item that had no opposition. Allow me to explain what that means.
The OEA Representative Assembly is the supreme governing body of the OEA. These 1200+ elected delegates meet twice a year to adopt legislative policies and resolutions, debate and pass business items, and conduct the business of the Association. All representatives are elected democratically at the local level. When this body gives specific direction, officers are bound to carry it out. These directives apply also to the staff of the OEA, who perform their respective jobs in accordance to the direction of the members.
Therefore, it is not surprising that President Frost-Brook's remarks are the result of a collaborative effort. Hardly "ghostwritten," the testimony was a collaborative effort between her and the other officers, appropriate staff, and the makers of the motion of the new business item. Nonetheless, the message was delivered by the President, who is the embodiment of the OEA when speaking in public. This is the essence of a union.
Certainly within a democratic organization there is dissent. We value that, in fact. Such discussions make us stronger. The key to that strength is that we have these discussions within the organization so that we can present a united front to the world. Even so, it is understood and accepted that there will be individual members who will not support the majority view, Ms. Jancyzk being one as it appears. No doubt this letter and Ms. Frost-Brook's speech (which I hope you will post in their entirety) will elicit additional hue and cry from Leone/Lazares loyalists. That is fine. The OEA chooses to address issues, not personalities.
Molly suggests that somehow President Frost-Brook's testimony negates free speech. Although I don't quite follow the argument, I must say that the OEA as an organization, President Frost-Brooks, and I stand for this principle. We understand, however, that with every right comes a responsibility. The right to speak freely includes the responsibility to be accurate and fair. It is irresponsible to call names and make unsubstantiated accusations.
Let's not lose sight of what we can do together. CORE activists have been effective grassroots lobbyists for HB315. I suspect that with work on our relationships we will find many things on which to work effectively together. Let's do that!
Bill Leibensperger
Vice President
Ohio Education Association

STRS Testimony
December 13, 2007
Good afternoon, Chairman Chapman, Executive Director Asbury, members of the Board, staff, and guests. My name is Patricia Frost-Brooks. I am a teacher on leave from the East Cleveland school district, a contributing member of STRS for 31 years and currently serving as President of the Ohio Education Association. I speak to you today on behalf of OEA’s 100,000 contributing STRS members and the many retired OEA members who are beneficiaries of the System. Please understand that I am not speaking as an individual, but as the official spokesperson of the OEA, representing 130,000 members.
Specifically, I have been directed by the OEA Representative Assembly which met on December 1 of this year, to deliver to you a resolution stating the following beliefs:
• The OEA supports the outstanding performance of the STRS Executive Director and Staff.
• The OEA believes that the STRS Board should reject any motions that would inhibit the Executive Director and Staff in carrying out their statutory responsibilities and/or hamper the System’s ability to pass legislation to preserve the health care benefit.
• The OEA reiterates its support for the Health Care Advocates for STRS and the public testimony they provide to the Board.
• The OEA expects that after deliberation the Board will speak with one public voice that reflects the consensus or majority of the Board.
As the various stakeholders in retiree health care work diligently to gain recognition and develop solutions for the funding challenges that lie ahead, it is crucial that STRS serve as a foundation of strength in that effort. In order to fulfill that critical role, unified leadership by the STRS Board and Executive Director is essential to the effectiveness of STRS staff and STRS partners.
To that effect, the OEA urges that a collaborative environment be nurtured that allows for the Executive Director and Staff to do the jobs they have been hired to do as professionals. In order for them to best be able to help secure the retiree health care benefit, they must be directed not micromanaged, monitored not second-guessed, and supported not undercut. In conjunction with the work of the Health Care Advocates for STRS, this kind of cooperative professional spirit of goodwill provide STRS retirees the best opportunity for a secure retirement with affordable healthcare.
The great work performed by the STRS Executive Director and staff in recent years should be reinforced by praise for finding ways to accomplish the objectives set by the Board. In doing its due diligence, the Board should be praised. However, any motions before the Board that would or could undermine trust and confidence between the Board, Executive Director and Staff, are not in the best interest of the system, and, in fact, may be unnecessary and counterproductive.
The significant external obstacles we face in achieving some of these objectives, especially those surrounding retiree healthcare, make this collaborative approach imperative. I urge in all of you the courage to trust. As the Board deliberates various motions today, at the January retreat, and into the future, we urge that these principles be kept in mind.
On behalf of the OEA and our STRS members, I thank you for your consideration and efforts to address the complex challenge of retiree health care.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Molly Janczyk comments on Patricia Frost-Brooks' speech to STRS Board December 13, 2007

From Molly Janczyk, December 13, 2007
Subject: OEA: Pres. Frost-Brooks' Speech to the STRS Board: 12/13/07
I read Kathie's comment at the top of her blog and smiled. Yes, I, too, think there is a 'ghost writer' on Broad St. [Comment reads: Thought for the day: why do I keep wondering (but not too hard) if there is a behind-the-scenes speech writer/ghost writer down on Broad Street?]
I think Frost-Brooks' speech was indeed 'crafted' as well. Crafted to be pointed -- very pointed to all who do not 'walk the line.' Of course, we ALL know WHO that is on the STRS Board. We know who questions and fights for oversight and transparency which many in membership elected them to do and who steps back so as not to tread on toes. What others call micromanaging, we call oversight and due diligence. When some say allow employees to do their jobs, we ask (with good reason) for transparency.
Yes, to a retiree who said today that he wanted policy to speak, I agree. But, when it is found that policy does not cover all aspects or needs tweaking, I also say, Yes, then it needs to come back to the Board for defining and perhaps more discussion and decisions made for special circumstances regarding some staff with different job descriptions than others.
Such conditions may apply to STRS Investment Staff who, at times, may need overrides for special trips to other countries. However, to have a policy in place with allowances not normally needed, seems an invitation to overuse at times as well. A thought for deliberation on how to resolve such needs.
I personally feel Frost-Brooks insulted her membership since many are not on her Exec. Board or attendees at meetings. I was not represented by her speech today and I am a decades long OEA member and Lifetime OEA-R member -- yet she, I felt, indicated she was representing all members. I know many others felt she did not represent them either. So, handpicking who you rep is convenient for such agenda statements.
I am a member of a much newer organization, CORE [Concerned Ohio Retired Educators,], that does not speak for others without putting issues out for all to read and have a chance to express themselves. Then majority is heard and then determinations presented. I do not recall receiving anything from OEA or OEA-R as a decades long and Lifetime member for my input on Frost-Brooks' perceived, and what has now become a monthly, mantra on what they feel is micromanaging. A few at the top of the organization make the decisions for unknowing membership.
Do members' opinions, other than loyalists, deserve to be heard? It is fine to say you speak for a group when only a handful of the group has been polled. Like when one speaks for HCAs. Does one ask all the HCAs or one person in each group known to stand with one dismissing all others? As always, numbers can be used many ways to strengthen one's position. I can ask only those whose answers I want to hear and say I am speaking for a group.
I am ashamed of my old organizations' leadership for OEA and OEA-R. These same organizations demanded involvement from membership decades back when I was one of many helping 'grow' them. But, time and power somehow clouds issues and degrades pure intent and integrity. Organizations do not, we learned, call attention to 'their own' who commit indiscretions saying they deserve things because they work so hard. Heads are turned. When others uncover misdeeds, embarrassment brings a heavy onslaught and circling wagons vs. cleaning house and taking responsibility.
A new organization [CORE] formed as a result. One motto: "We never want to become what we fought to dismantle." We did dismantle hugely! We are here to stay; to provide oversight, regardless of what anyone else wants to call it; and demand transparency, regardless of what others wish blindly approved. We will be vocal for retirees, current and future, to restore STRS to its place of integrity.
I feel and many agree, that Steve Mitchell has led a valiant effort to rebuild STRS; and yet these dollars, though seemingly so large, do not restore STRS to its pre-tumble status any more than a person who has lost much of their finances. To begin, steps had to be taken to meet immediate needs and liability, and funding ratio suffered and still have not fully recovered. STRS can never pay for HC in today's market for its retirees without a dedicated revenue, no matter the amount, anyway, without a fund dedicated to HC.
We relish the hard working Staff at STRS and wish nothing but good for them. We only ask we be treated on a more balanced level with them. STRS exists because of us; not for Staff. Fairly compensated, of course, as we should be for building this system with our dollars. The 'shareholders' suffer. We need help.
SHAME on any organization that undermines free thinking and discussion and speech. SHAME on any organization that comes asking for solidarity of support regardless of one's moral and ethical standing. I, for one, demand knowing how individual Board members vote and why! I do not want Board members voting to keep peace or make nice or against their principles. EVER! I sure want them to tell me why they voted differently on issues. Otherwise, SHAME ON ME FOR NOT WANTING TO KNOW! That will never happen again. Those days are gone -- comfortable and fun as they may have been. Era past.
Molly Janczyk
STRS Retiree
OEA/NEA Lifetime
CEA Lifetime
FCRTA Lifetime
ORTA Lifetime

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OEA president Patricia Frost-Brooks' speech to the STRS Board, December 13, 2007

December 13, 2007
I don't have a copy of Ms. Frost-Brooks' speech, so I will paraphrase as best I can below. KBB
Ms. Frost-Brooks spoke as an official representative of OEA and outlined a resolution their executive board made on December 1, 2007. The following points were made:
...• Strong support for the 'outstanding' efforts of the STRS executive director and staff
...• Denounce any motions that restrict the executive director and staff in their efforts to carry out their duties
...• Support for the Health Care Advocates
...• STRS Board should present a united front
...• Unified leadership is more effective in order for the executive director and staff to do their jobs
...• Good work should be reinforced
...• Motions before the Board can have an undermining effect on the efforts of the executive director and staff
...• A collaborative approach is imperative (between the executive director/staff and the Board)
All in all, it was a beautifully crafted speech. Very beautifully crafted.

Jim N. Reed's speech to the STRS Board, December 13, 2007

Re: Good Tidings
December 13, 2007
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
My name is Jim N. Reed. I am a 42-year STRS Ohio member and I am here this afternoon, representing myself, to make a few personal observations.
During the November "Public Participation" segment of this board's deliberations I requested each member of this Board seriously reexamine and reconsider the STRS Board policy issues that led to the tabling of Dr. Leone's October motion to stabilize the system's "Checks and Balances."
Subsequently, not only did the board vote to take the five-point motion off the table but in a near unanimous decision the Board voted to alter policy so that two of the points of emphasis could be implemented immediately. The other recommended changes to Separation of Power policy are to be seriously considered in the near future as promised by the Board.
Though I have written each Board member to thank them for their independent thinking and vote for increased transparency and oversight and enhanced attention to Balance of Power, I wish to thank them publicly as well. For Ohio's 400,000 active and retired educators this decision is an early Holiday Season gift and most welcome Good Tidings.
As this year comes to an end, there is an opportunity for STRS to continue its five-year Renaissance that has restored some honor and integrity to a retirement system that once owned a reputation of being second-to-none. The restoration of some confidence and trust among stakeholders has been painstaking and certainly not complete but there is cause to hope ORC 3307.15 will become more and more the focal point of all Board members when decisions about the welfare of retirees and their families are made.
It is my sincere hope that when we look back at 2007 we will see it as a harbinger of a renewed legacy for STRS, a legacy that will attract the best and brightest to teach our posterity and one that will reward career educators with a secure retirement.
Thank you.

Donna Seaman's speech to the STRS Board, December 13, 2007

December 13, 2007
Good afternoon, STRS board members and STRS staff.
My name is Donna Seaman; I retired about five years ago after 30 years of service as a teacher and administrator. I am also a director for the Richland County Retired Teachers Association.
I am going to borrow a popular term from today's aspiring presidential candidates: It is time for a change, it is time for a NEW DIRECTION.
You have a unique opportunity in the next few months to select a new executive director for STRS -- someone who, hopefully, will chart a new direction for STRS in the coming years.
Many of us retirees believe it is way past time to begin downsizing STRS's operations, taking steps to streamline personnel, and to show retirees that the STRS organization is economizing -- the way you expect us to do.
As you take the critical steps today to select a search group, it is my hope that you will instruct them to recruit and interview only those individuals who show a commitment to frugality, conservative spending, honesty and integrity.
To this end I urge you to listen to two of your colleagues, Dr. Leone and John Lazares, who seem to be the only members of this board who are genuinely concerned about the plight of Ohio's retired educators, and who continue to question overspending. Please accept their leadership and advice, and provide an atmosphere on this board of cooperation, trust and mutual respect.
In the past few years many of us retired teachers have gasped at the expenses incurred by STRS; to list a few: the construction of this beautiful elegant building, its artwork, the half million dollar buyout of a former director, the cost of private legal counsel for STRS employees, the unprecedented severance package for laid off employees, enormous bonuses and incentives for staff, free or nearly free child care perks and many other questionable expenses.
All this spending was done during the time period when our 13th check was abolished (and often mentioned that it will likely never be reinstated) and health benefits were reduced or cut year after year.
Even though the STRS newsletters have explained frequently that it has never been required for STRS to provide health coverage for us, isn't it interesting that all the while our health benefits were cut or reduced, then cut and reduced again, health benefits for STRS staff continue to improve?
Many of us have asked you to consider your fiduciary responsibility to us, Ohio's retired teachers. This is a huge responsibility, I am sure. As a retiree, I ask you to, instead of enriching the lives, bank accounts and careers of STRS administrators and employees, consider enriching the lives, bank accounts and comfort levels of Ohio's retired teachers, those of us whose salaries have generated this fund to start with.
In closing, let me again ask you to consider using your board leadership to take STRS in a NEW DIRECTION. it is time for a change. I implore you to balance each and every expenditure against this challenge -- is this the best decision that will benefit Ohio's retired teachers?
Thank you.

Meet your CORE officers

Treasurer, C. J. Meyers
Secretary, Glenna Barr
Vice President, Mary Ellen Angeletti
President, Dave Parshall

Jim N. Reed and Chuck Angeletti in serious conversation 12.13.07

Dan Vincent fields questions from CORE members

Glenna Barr, Molly Janczyk, Chuck Angeletti hard at work

The diehards from Clinton County

Regina Swisshelm, Donna Thorp, Ruby Fisher and Herman Fisher

Two gals in holiday attire - Marie Fetters & Kathie Bracy

OFT's Sue Taylor to Mary Thomas: OFT working hard to inform members re: HB 315

From Sue Taylor, December 13, 2007
Subject: RE: OFT highlights HB 315
Dear Mary,
House Bill 315 is the featured story in this edition of the Ohio Teacher. It is on the front page, above the fold.
Additionally, HB 315 story is featured prominently on the home page of our website.
At last Saturday's OFT Executive Council meeting, Herschel Grim and I both spoke about HB 315 extensively.
I believe we have been very diligent to do all that OFT can do to ensure our members understand the issues at hand and the consequences if HB 315 does not get traction and pass. OFT will continue to highlight the need for passage of HB 315.
If you have any more suggestions for ways OFT to get the message across, I'm certainly open.
Thank you.
In solidarity,
Sue Taylor
Ohio Federation of Teachers

Letter to Harris, Husted, Hartnett: Please appoint eleventh STRS Board member

To Honorables:
Sen Pres. Harris,
House Speaker Husted,
Gov. Asst. Hartnett

Please do all in your power to appoint Tom Hall, Professor of Economics at Miami University, to the STRS Ohio board. He is an investment expert of the highest caliber, being a published authority on topics such as market trends, investments, business cycles and economics. As a contributing member, he also has a vested interest in STRS since he will eventually be an STRS beneficiary.
The retired educators of Ohio would appreciate it very much if you would put this highly qualified individual on the STRS board. Such action on your part would also give us confidence in your willingness to make decisions for the betterment of our cause and Ohio's well being.

Please advise on this issue and whether you are considering Prof. Tom Hall for this appointment. He is an independent thinker and will adhere strictly to the Ohio Revised Code as a member of the STRS Board.
If for some reason you do not wish to appoint Tom Hall, then PLEASE appoint somebody -- ANYBODY -- who is equally qualified. The STRS Board has been stuck with 10 members instead of the mandated 11 for over a year. The very lives of Ohio's retired teachers are in the hands of these Board members. We need a FULL BOARD working on our behalf, making the best decisions possible for us. Only YOU can make this happen. Please do not delay any longer -- some people's lives may well be in your hands!
Kathie Bracy
Retired Ohio teacher, STRS member
Columbus, OH

STRS Board to meet December 12-13

From STRS, December 6, 2007

The State Teachers Retirement Board and Committee meetings currently scheduled at the STRS Ohio offices, 275 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, are as follows:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
...10:00 a.m.....Disability Review Panel, followed by
.......................Final Average Salary Committee
Thursday, December 13, 2007
...8:00 a.m.......Audit Committee Meeting
...9:00 a.m.......Retirement Board Meeting

The Audit Committee will meet at 8 a.m.. on Thursday, Dec. 13, and the Retirement Board meeting will come to order at 9 a.m. The Board's agenda will begin with a report from the external auditor, followed by a report from Member Benefits regarding health care. Reports from the Executive Director Consultant Search Committee, Investment Department and Finance Department will follow. The Executive Director's Report is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., followed by public participation, routine matters and any other issues requiring attention.

[Map/directions to STRS, 275 E. Broad St. Columbus, OH 43215]

Next CORE meeting December 13, 2007 at STRS

CORE Alert December 1, 2007

CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators) will hold their December meeting on Thursday, December 13th at the STRS Building at 275 East Broad Street in Columbus. Parking is free in the parking garage behind the building.

We encourage you to attend the STRS meeting which usually begins around 9:00 a.m. on Thursday in the meeting room on the 6th floor. CORE members usually leave the meeting around 11:30 in order to go to the cafeteria on the second floor to get our lunches. We then take our lunches to the small cafeteria room behind the Sublett Rm. on the second floor of the STRS building where the CORE meeting will begin promptly at 11:45.

At noon, a candidate for the contributing member seat on the STRS Board (John Lazares' current seat) will be introduced to the membership and will tell why he wants to run for this position. Dan Vincent is seeking CORE's support and endorsement.

The business meeting will follow Mr. Vincent's visit. We will adjourn the meeting in time to attend the afternoon STRS meeting. We will probably return to the cafeteria room to continue our CORE meeting following the afternoon STRS meeting, the Executive Director's report, and Public Speaks. This will give the membership an opportunity to discuss matters related to the upcoming vacancy on the STRS Board.

All interested persons are welcome to attend. Map/directions to STRS, 275 E. Broad St. Columbus, OH 43215

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

2007 Cane and Coal Awards....your help needed!

From John Curry: It's that time of year again! It's time to award the "Cane or Coal" award to those who are deserving....those who have helped STRS retirees and those who have worked against these same retirees during the last year. Please send me your suggestions so that I can add to this list for later distribution. John (


1. Dennis Leone and John Lazares continuing to initiate reform at STRS.
2. Some Board members, after initially voting no on some of Dennis's motions, changing their votes to vote in the affirmative for the Leone motion after some self-reflection of the errors of their initial vote.
3. Our Attorney General Marc Dann who let the STRS know, in no uncertain terms, that secret balloting at an open STRS Board meeting was verboten.
4. Your suggestion(s) go here:


1. Mark Meuser for having a "knee-jerk" reaction to almost all Leone initiated motions placed before the Board.
2. The OSBA for not understanding the future of the educators whom they employ nor the plight of those retirees who have given countless hours and dollars to educate those in Ohio's public schools.
3. The Ohio Retirement Study Council who quickly withdrew the "nasty" companies list (from their website) of those countries purportedly doing some business with Iran. Seems as though Honda really wasn't really a terrorist company after all!
4. The Ohio House of Representatives, under the leadership of Jon Husted, who have worked fewer days than any Legislature of the last decade.
5. Your suggestion(s) go here:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jim N. Reed to House Speaker Husted and Senate President Harris: Why the foot-dragging?

From Jim N. Reed, December 10, 2007
Subject: STRS Board Vacancy
I recently read a correspondence from Mrs. Molly Janczyk from Pickerington, Ohio, to each of you regarding the vacancy on the STRS Board that is your prerogative but remains unfilled after more than a year.
It does seem that Mrs. Janczyk is deserving of a more timely response than she has been granted. Sometimes a single person isn't heard very well but it should be noted that there are over 400,000 active and retired educators who are very dependent on the decisions coming from the STRS Board. Many of us are quite aware of the procrastination over the appointment of an investment expert that would complete the eleven-member Board.
If you have followed the inner workings at Ohio STRS over the past four years you are quite aware of the travesty inflicted on Ohio's educators by an entitlement mentality forthcoming from an out-of-touch Board and Executive Director. Thanks to some determined investigation and courageous whistle-blowing, a grass roots Renaissance has been initiated at STRS by a couple of unwavering Board members and a growing number of concerned educators.
To continue this reclamation of our retirement system we need highly qualified and vested individuals who will accept nothing less than total adherence to ORC 3307.15. Economics Professor Tom Hall of Miami University has been recommended for this General Assembly appointment for some time. Dr. Hall has been on the ballot for Board membership and received substantial support among Ohio's educators.
It would certainly, at the least, behoove you to respond to Mrs. Janczyk and seem the right thing to do to become more engaged in filling the Board vacancy as soon as possible.
As a 42-year Ohio public educator and STRS stakeholder I would ask you to seriously consider the rapid selection of Professor Thomas Hall as the House Speaker's and Senate President's appointee to the STRS Board.
Jim N. Reed

Warren Tribune Chronicle on double dipping

From Buddy Coffey, December 10, 2007
The following editorial appears today in the “Tribune Chronicle”, a newspaper from Warren, OH
The Champion Local School District provides a quality education for its students. Consistently earning an excellent rating on the state report card, a distinction reached by only 15 to 20 percent of all Ohio districts, Champion stands out among its Trumbull County peers. Credit starts at the top. Superintendent Pam Hood has held the top post since 1994. While everybody from students to parents to board of education members share the credit, Hood is ultimately responsible. The same can be said for Champion’s labor peace. After working through strikes in 1997 and 2000, Champion reached amicable agreements with its unions without giving away the house, thanks in part to Hood’s leadership. In fact, last year the district and its employees worked through some difficult financial times. But that does not justify another abuse of Ohio’s troublesome law that allows public employers to rehire retirees.
The Champion Board of Education plans to approve a retire-rehire plan with Hood tonight. Under the plan, the superintendent would retire and collect, according to some reports, a major portion of her $104,332 annual salary. The State Employee Retirement System determines the amount based on age and years of service. The Champion board then plans to rehire Hood at a reduced salary and claim it is saving the district money by not hiring somebody new. The savings would be about $12,000 in the district’s multi-million dollar budget. That’s because the board reportedly plans to rehire Hood at approximately $92,000. The board apparently fails to take into consideration that a new hire should start at a salary lower than an outgoing superintendent who served excellently for 13 years.
Most public employers claim rehiring retirees saves them substantially in health care benefits. But in Hood’s case, Champion is already not paying for her health care. And even if it was, that’s hardly worth compromising the principle of denying a younger person a promotion and sending the message that professional advancement here is stifled. It also prevents an even younger person from entering the system, further contributing to Trumbull County’s brain drain.
The board should seriously reconsider this plan that pays Hood, in retirement, about $180,000 annually and, according to some reports, benefits that include a $23,000 expense account, up to $6,000 in performance bonuses, a $1,800 car allowance and more. And the state legislature should reconsider the law that is proving to be a serious strain on the public retirement systems. To offset the cost of double dipping, public employers, like the Champion school district, may soon have to contribute more to their employees’ retirement funds. In the long run, this isn’t saving taxpayers anything.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

RH Jones: SB 191 & HB 315 for a forward moving Ohio

From RH Jones, December 9, 2007
SB 191 & HB 315 for a forward moving Ohio

To Ann Hanning and all:
In a way Senate Bill No. 191 will help keep government employees in Ohio spending their retirement checks here rather than Florida, Arizona, or any other state or nation. According to the Ohio Legislature web site, the following Senators have sponsored this bill: Coughlin, Schuler, Mumper, Buehrer, and Schaffer during the 127th General Assembly of 2007-2008. Its purpose is to amend section 57047.01 of the Revised Code to exempt from personal income tax local, state, and federal government employees and military retirement benefits.
Of course, you understand that this bill does not have the power to exempt retired Ohio government employees from federal income taxes. But the legislature does have the power to exempt us from local and state taxes, which would be a help to both us, and Ohio. However, I would not want SB191 to interfere with the passage of HB 315 (The employer increase for STRS HC) which is much more important for retired educators, like myself, and for Ohio’s forward progress.
I have not studied SB 191, nor do I get paid to do so, but I would think that this exemption from local and state income taxes would, especially for retired STRS members, help somewhat. We presently lack our fairly distributed, and inflation fighting, 13th check. Our simple STRS 3% Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) – not compounded -- does not keep us up with inflation, nor does it help much in filling the gap in our increasingly larger share of our costs for the STRS HC/Rx. Of course HB 315 is a better solution than SB 191, but Ohio needs passage of both of these bills. Although this SB191 would serve those government employees with the highest income the most, it still would be a good thing for Ohio. No government employee is wealthy by getting paid by the local, state or federal government.
However, government retired employees have demonstrated good citizenship with a dedication and loyalty to their jobs over their employed years. Therefore, Ohio will be better off if retired government employees live in Ohio. However, lack of the retired educator’s fairly distributed inflation fighting 13th check, the STRS retired members need to get a secure, paid-for HC/Rx plan as well as the tax break. With retirement HC/Rx, our nation's best educators will gravitate to stay in Ohio to educate Ohio’s children for the betterment of our great Buckeye State. Ohio will be better with the passage of both these bills. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company has now committed to Ohio, is the Ohio legislature as committed?
This is one free American citizen’s learned opinion,
RHJones, ORTA Life Member and SummitCRTA Legislative Committee Member
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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