Friday, December 16, 2022

Dan MacDonald to STRS Board: You can’t un-ring a bell but a bell can be refurbished for a new tone.

Dan MacDonald's speech to the STRS Board

December 15, 2022
Good morning STRS Board. Happy Holi-DAZE! I am Dan MacDonald, an STRS retiree with 38 plus years of service. I am also the Executive Director of Local 279R, North East Ohio AFT retirees.
I don’t know if you realize that I was not able to attend either October’s or November’s meetings. I must say that listening to taped meetings is quite tedious, being here is much better.
Last month’s educational planning meeting certainly opened the door to education. Although ethics is covered yearly, the adding of open meetings was helpful for me to understand travel calls versus STRS legal counsel advice on emails to Board members in view of a response. In the near future, point based retirement eligibility certainly will be an education in itself to actives.
Inflation protection was a disappointment to me, but maybe an education to new Board members. Other state programs seem to be presented ever couple of years, but I thought STRS staff was going to present its ruminations on inflation protection. If that happened, I missed it.
Does this Board have trust issues with STRS staff and each other? Maybe so because I was disappointed in the self-assessment to hear that only 7 of 11 of Board members filled out a self-assessment survey. To the four that didn’t fill out the survey, shame on you whether you are new or old; to this Board and to STRS staff, your input is needed and it should be public. Actives and retirees deserve more than 64% Board participation.
I would remind the Board that you can’t un-ring a bell as stated at the last meeting, but a bell can be refurbished for a new tone. Without a January Board meeting, the Board will be addressing Board Policy alteration suggestions, a 2023-24 Budget, a PBI document, all within the coming months. Battles are about to be picked. Fiduciary responsibilities need to include actives and retirees as well as the organization. As always, actives need their benefit package enhanced and retirees need their COLA restored.
Yesterday I found out that Deputy Executive Director, Member Benefits and Chief Benefits Officer, Gary Russell, is retiring. I would like to thank him for his years of service and all the work his department has done for retirees, actives too. His knowledge loss will be a true blow to the organization. Gary, I am inviting you right now to join North East Ohio AFT retirees, Local 279R, as a Friend of Educators.

Robin Rayfield: Looking for real answers from the STRS Board

Robin Rayfield's speech to STRS Board

December 15, 2022
Good morning. My name is Robin Rayfield. I am a retired STRS member and Executive Director of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association.
I have met with 44 local retired teachers county associations this year. At these meetings I am impressed with the level of frustration that ORTA members have with STRS. I have also been asked by two senior management level STRS staff as to the source or genesis of this anger and frustration.
1. Although most of the board members currently serving on the STRS board did not make the decision to reduce the benefits retirees were promised, please remember that the promised benefits that were guaranteed by STRS and Ohio law were reduced AFTER most retirees were already collecting benefits. Until Board members Wade Steen, Yoel Mayerfeld, and Dr. Fichtenbaum began serving very little was said in public meetings about this broken covenant.
2. Although STRS touts its policies of transparency, most members that I communicate with feel that STRS is not transparent. For nearly two years, STRS has not provided information about the alternative investment program such as
a. How much is invested with each external investor
b. What the fees, expenses, and other costs associated with each investment is, and what is the value of each of those investments.
Now, we are all in the dark with regards to 'crypto currency' investments. How much money have we lost in this dark money world?
3. For years, STRS has known that the pension system spends more than it takes in through contributions. Why hasn't the employer contribution issue been addressed in 38 years? STRS has wasted time and resources 'trying to beat the market' something that they have been unable to do. Despite all the gaslighting about our performance in investing, STRS has not beat an indexed approach and have purposely provided misinformation about alternatives to the expensive 'beat the market strategies'. Why? No doubt because too many highly paid staff positions would be at risk.
4. Lack of shared sacrifice. When active members are paying the highest contribution rate in the country, employers are paying the lowest rate in the country, and working longer for a retirement that does not protect them from inflation, and retirees have experienced massive reductions in their promised benefits, STRS employees have continued to be the highest paid pension employees in the country. The expenses of subsidized benefits like the gymnasium, cafeteria, and opulent facilities are a slap in the face to people that provide the money to fund the operations.
I have asked STRS management 'What is the plan or pathway to improvement in the pension system that will allow STRS to fulfill its promise to the retired educators in Ohio?' The answer is that 'We are on a pathway to improvement. Each year we improve our funding ratio, and our investment performance is among the top in the country. Improvement will take time'. Time is something many STRS retirees have very little of. Thus, the anger and frustration. 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Cathy Steinhauser with some strong words for the STRS Board's performance and a word of advice: Do The Right Thing

Cathy Steinhauser - 35 yrs. teaching Family & Consumer Sciences as a satellite teacher w/Pickaway-Ross CTC.

Well here we are again. I'm pleased that some of the board members and the Director are beginning to use the word "fiduciary". However, there seems to be some misunderstanding about what a few of the words in the definition of fiduciary means:
"A person who acts on behalf of another person or persons, putting their client's interests ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust. Being a fiduciary requires being bound both LEGALLY AND ETHICALLY to act in others best interests."
Legally means: lawful or rightful
Ethically means: a discipline dealing with good and evil and with moral duty
Morals means: of or relating to principles of right and wrong or a standard of right behavior
Trust means: assured reliance on the character, strength or honesty of someone else
Good faith means: proper allegiance to duty
See a pattern??
The STRS members are realizing especially now, that many board members are lacking these qualities in operating STRS. You may know the difference between right and wrong but have not been putting the membership's interests ahead of your own. This pension has no room for a self-entitlement attitude. Voting AGAINST the membership time and time again in favor of the staff and the investment group is blatant disrespect, lack of ethics, honesty, and loyalty towards the very people you have been hired, appointed or voted in to oversee and protect our pension.
You keep information from us and when caught you back pedal, you do not tell the truth the majority of the time especially on social media and emails to membership, you have been given sound ideas about how to clean up the mess that you have made over the years from two board members and Ed Siedle and you ignore those ideas. It amazes me how you can dismiss the top forensic auditor in the country as not knowing what he's talking about yet you keep losing billions…can't you see the irony in your ignorance?? You are most content with things the way they are which has caused this pension loss of COLA and the billions lost through poor investing practices! Don't you know that get rich quick schemes never work?? You tried to placate the retirees by granting us a one-time bonus and then saying "we will revisit the COLA in the spring to determine if we will grant another". You have caused thousands of STRS retired members to live in borderline poverty if not at poverty level already due to no permanent COLA. It makes me sick to think that you go home every day and live your lives comfortably because STRS staff and investment staff got raises and bonuses and teachers are forced to live paycheck to paycheck most due to no fault of theirs. And you had the audacity to publish on the STRS Facebook page what teachers can do to save money and budget! You should take your own advice and live without extravagant raises and bonuses.
There has been published articles recently to inform Ohio citizens about the poor decisions that STRS has been making by way of investments. We are NOT the premier pension now that has been touted in the past. The word is getting out to the public and STRS members. My advice, and I'm sure I have the support of thousands of STRS members, is to do.the.right.thing. and make better decisions for this pension because you need to stop using it as your cash cow NOW! We won't forget PANDA POWER and now what about FTX with 125M loss or is it?? You have and continue to be exposed!! 

Suzanne Laird to STRS Board: When will our words matter to you?

Suzanne Laird's speech to the STRS Board

December 15, 2022
Good Morning, Members of MY Board:
Words matter.
Several times, in the past few months, one of our Board members has intoned this phrase, usually when another Board member has dared to speak the truth.
Words matter.
And yet, last month, we heard some, attempting to coerce others into a sort of "groupspeak," claiming that all members must agree in public: a sort of Orwellian "1984" bizarre concept. Do some words matter, but not others?
We, who are allotted a measly 3 minutes each month, know that our words do not matter to some of you as we watch you scrolling through your screens while we speak. Your words for us? "Malcontents." "Troublemakers."
Yes, words do matter, but not only words you find agreeable to your own narrow point of view. Words of dissent sometimes hold more import than those of simple agreement. Words of dissent may help you to evolve into a Board more responsive to your stakeholders.
Words matter.
So, I prefer the words "truth-teller" to the word "troublemaker."
I prefer transparency instead of deception.
I prefer receptive instead of arrogance.
I prefer fiduciary rather than greed.
Index funds to cryptocurrency.
And benefits before bonuses.
These are the words that matter.
Members of MY Board, when will our words matter to you?
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
web page counter
Vermont Teddy Bear Company