Saturday, April 27, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

To the STRS Board: Your Silence Speaks Volumes

Kathie Bracy to STRS Board, April 25, 2013
To the members of the STRS Retirement Board:
As you are well aware, there are irregularities in the ballot language in the 2013 election, creating confusion among many retirees and which will produce unintended results in the election currently in progress for the two retired seats on the STRS board unless something is done about it.
Assuming the personal integrity of each member of the STRS board would never permit such an injustice to prevail, I wish to know precisely what the board intends to do to rectify the situation. The only right (and maybe lawful?) thing to do, as you are also well aware, is to invalidate the 2013 election altogether and run it again, whatever the cost, with corrected ballot language.
Since whoever authored and/or approved the carelessly written current ballot language clearly did not understand the possible confusion it would cause for many, I would strongly suggest you create a panel to study it carefully and submit it to some language experts before putting out a new ballot.
At the April 18, 2013 STRS board meeting, Dennis Leone outlined exactly what the problems are with the ballot language. He asked repeatedly how this could have happened, and his questions were valid; yet you, the STRS board, met them with stony silence (I was present during his speech and was totally stunned that not one board member had the courtesy of offering him even the slightest semblance of a response).
You can only imagine what your constituents must think of such a cold reception from their board. Had you been a child in my third grade class, you would have missed a few recesses for this kind of rudeness, and I'd have had a little talk with your parents. If you are still teaching, you can imagine what your next evaluation would look like if you treated your principal this way. If you're not teaching, try this out on your boss sometime.
You have a chance to make things right; please do, so that justice will prevail and you won't go down in STRS history as the board that approved a crooked election at the expense of retired teachers and got away with it. How many more times are you going to slap us in the face?
For the absent board members that day, you may listen to Dr. Leone's words on the CD-ROM recording of the board meeting, or go here to view them:
I hope to receive your response in a prompt manner. Further silence on your part shall be interpreted as your support of the ballot language as it currently stands, and no intention on your part to acknowledge or correct any part of it.
Thank you.
Kathie Bracy
STRS retiree

Dennis Leone exposes their own ballot scandal to STRS board...and their response is dead silence! (Any surprise there?)

From John Curry, April 24, 2013 
The following is a transcription by John Curry, taken from the CD-ROM recording of the April 18, 2013 STRS board meeting. The attachments can be viewed in the post below this one; or click here. They are posted in the order mentioned. 
Greetings, my name is Dennis Leone, I’ve passed out in front of you here today a couple of pages from this booklet.  
[SEE ATTACHMENT 1] This is the Board adopted election manual  for this particular election, 2013. Please turn to the next page [SEE ATTACHMENT 2], and you’ll see that’s page 12 of the manual booklet, and it indicates item number 12 and it indicates that the board form, the ballot, shall be prescribed by the retirement board. That’s the actual ballot itself.  
Also note that it says ‘see Appendix E and Appendix M.’ Ok, so let’s look at Appendix M. Turn the page[SEE ATTACHMENT 3], this is Appendix M.  
Four years ago, this was the ballot. Four people running for two spots on the board. Look what it says, the circle: “Select up to two candidates.”  
Next page [SEE ATTACHMENT 4]…’s the ballot for this year…four candidates running for two spots, “Select two candidates.” 
 Now, if you don’t understand how this causes confusion for retirees who think they have to vote for two people then you’re mistaken. You’re not understanding the situation. It doesn’t matter that there’s other documents that say that you can vote for up to two people, this is the ballot.  
There are several people, lots of them, that intended to vote for me in a single way, as well as Nadine Mcllwain, and when they see this language, they end up feeling like, and they’ve told me this, they feel like for their vote to count they have to cast a second ballot. And, that’s what they’ve done!   
And, more times than not, it was for the safe vote, it is for the OEA one-two ticket of McGreevy and Stein. People wanting to vote for me, they don’t know who Nadine Mcllwain is, then they’ll vote for one of these two. The same for people wanting to cast a single ballot for her, not knowing who I am, will cast a second ballot for these two people.  
The next page [SEE ATTACHMENT 5] is something I’ve decided to do different this year, I’ve decided to vote online. That’s what popped up, “select two candidates.” So, I voted for myself. One time, I thought I was done, I clicked the word confirm.  What happened? I wasn’t done! Next page, this popped up [SEE ATTACHMENT 6]: a second sheet saying would you like to vote for one more? I clicked down (Resend) no, I wasn’t interested in that.  
So, that’s what we have, we have a situation here where retirees have been made to feel like, in order for their vote to count, they’re supposed to select two candidates.  
How did this happen? How could there be a ballot that looked like this in 2009 and another that looked like this in 2013? Why? How did this happen? I keep asking….nobody will answer my question. It says here, “You are to prescribe the ballot yourself.” You know what you’ve done? This is like a school board authorizing a bond issue and not checking to see what the ballot language is going to be. That’s what this is!  
And I want an answer for how this happened. I am entitled to it. It has caused widespread confusion. There are a lot of people who feel this whole thing should be started all over again. How did this happen? Somebody tell me. Why was there a ballot that said one thing four years ago and the same number of people running  four years later and there’s a different ballot?  
I know one thing, four years from now, the ballot that went out this time…it won’t go out again, will it? And…not one of you are going to  say, “and that’s because that’s because we screwed up four years ago.” No one is admitting that right now. Nobody is. Why? 
Why isn’t it that somebody is acknowledging that there has been a mistake made? Why? I am entitled to an answer. How did this happen? How did this happen [a long period of silence on the recording]? Nobody [another long period of silence]?  This is OK [a third long period of silence]?  You know what you should have done? Any person that sent in a ballot with one vote…….you should send them a SECOND ballot and ask them if they want to vote again….for a second person. That’s what you did to me when I voted electronically. How did this happen? No answer………..[a fourth long period of silence]? OK!
[Click here to see ballot samples.]

Ballots for 2013 STRS Board Election

Click images (maybe twice) to enlarge.

RH Jones: Retired teacher "scabs"

From RH Jones, April 24, 2013 
To all retired and active teachers:  
In a nearby common public school district, there is a strike going on for some time now; and wouldn't you know it, a retired ORTA member is being paid by the school system to recruit replacement teachers commonly know as “scabs”.  I can't mention the member’s name, but believe me he exists. Also, there are, most probably, retired teachers substitute teaching in striking school districts; in either case, in my opinion, it is “selling your soul” for a few dollars.  
The retired teacher “scabs” seem to not realize that when active teachers do not have adequate wages for their training and experience, this results in less seed money coming into our STRS to invest; and, this effects the pension income of all present and future retired educators. Simply put, your monthly checks will, therefore, be less.  Rather, a better strategy is to join the actives on your local common public schools picket line or, at least, bring them some coffee and donuts or iced tea on the coming hot days. They need help not hindrance.  
It is in the best interests of ORTA and OEA-R to publish how retired teachers; either working to recruit “scabs”, or working as a “scab”, indirectly diminishes their, and our, take home pension checks. In this case, we retired teachers MUST be in harmony with our depressed active brethren, struggling under terrible working conditions and low professional pay. There is no alternative; the STRS will have no other option but to lower our pension, which is already modest
Personally, having talked to several active teachers, I have found that morale is at an all time low among them. This feeling will most certainly carry over to the students in the classrooms. Some presently retired teachers have no idea how awful it is to work under the recent asinine work rules and pay proposals. Did you know that there is a new House Bill (HB) 153 that will make teaching even worse? This is what I think this HB 153 may try to do:            

1) Cut back on the number of Ohio teachers.
2) All Ohio teachers will be paid the same regardless for the differences of cost-of living in the various school district areas.
3) Districts will be required to do away with “step” increases.
4) Set-up a lower minimum pay scale.
5) Evaluation of the teacher based on student test scores.
6) Parents and students directly review teachers.
7) Thirty-minute observations twice per year.
8) Fifty-percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be determined by student performance.
9) Wages decided on how the teacher is rated.
10) Experience will no longer be a compensatory factor.
Retired teachers, please be reasonable and be in sympathy with the active teachers who are paying into our STRS. Their teaching situation is now tedious, frustrating, irritating, exasperating, worsening, and just unpleasant. Help them don’t hinder them!  
RHJ retired

RH Jones: ORTA scores one, drops the ball on four

From RH Jones, April 23, 2013  
To all:  
Concerning the ORTA spring Quarterly, 2013, publication, they scored one time and dropped the ball four times.  
The lone point scored was the front page report that retired teachers donated 396,438 hours of community service to Ohio Communities. That is great PR for us as well as good for Ohio citizens in having this free service.
The first dropped ball was, in my opinion, subtly endorsing by cleverly placing excellent, clearly sharp, photos of OEA endorsed candidates McGreevy and Stein in the top two of the four photos. Under their photos were Leone and McIlwain in unfocused, not so good poses. They show McIlwain with her eyes closed! To be fair to all candidates they should have been placed alphabetically with Leone and McIlwain in the top two and McGreevy and Stein in the bottom two. All four photos should be of equal clarity.  
Second ball dropped was printing the poorly thought-out PR in the STRS article concerning a STRS Survey Result that, reportedly, 95% of STRS Ohio retirees have other income than their STRS pensions. This was done by a phone survey which are, reportedly, never accurate and are easily contested; and, any retiree income additional to the STRS pension is the business only of the retiree, the IRS, State and Local tax collectors. 
The third dropped ball is quarterly publication of “Where would we be if we didn’t live in Ohio” listing how happy folks are to be living somewhere else, other than Ohio. This was published in the face of many ORTA members email opposition. By not spending our Ohio pension checks in Ohio hurts the economy and that affects us all. Certainly, any American is free to live anywhere they what, but the ORTA telling how wonderful it is in other states, rather than telling how wonderful it is to retire here in our beautiful state, is a disservice to us all.  
Fourth, and losing the game ball, is ORTA failing to mention in the “Hot Topic” article that retirees need State Income Tax relief -- especially starting July when we will go without our simple COLA which will adversely affect retired teachers – those most affected are those who have been retired over 20-years. Inflation is running at 2.3% currently. Other states do not tax retired teachers and that is a factor that draws retired teachers to settle and spend in other states.  
Come on ORTA, let us start playing the game to improve the financial lot of retired teachers rather than mirroring the active teachers' OEA. Is ORTA a “rubber stamp”? I wonder.  
RHJ, Life Member ORTA
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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