• Coronavirus Resources

    by David Morrill | Mar 03, 2020
    COVID-19

     

    As many of you know, Governor Inslee declared a state of emergency due to the growing presence of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our state. What does that mean? Should you freak out? Is this something we're all overreacting to? Great questions, but we're no doctors (although we do have a Dr. Scott Seaman). Here's what we can tell you though; listen to advice and guidance from your district and from local, state, and national health experts. Aside from that, our best piece of advice is to make sure you are communicating frequently and clearly with your students, staff, and community.

    While we aren't health experts, we've done some groundwork for you and put together a resource page with links and resources, including:

    • OSPI's memo,
    • Our State Department of Health's (DOH) coronavirus web site,
    • DOH's guidance for school administrators and nurses,
    • Links to the Center for Disease Control's coronavirus resources (including their guidance for K-12 administrators and childcare workers),
    • Resources from the World Health Organization,
    • A comic to help explain the coronavirus to kids, and
    • A list of stories in the news.

    We'll do our best to keep updating our resource page as new or better information becomes available. And while we might not be the experts, please reach out to us if you have questions or concerns. In the meantime, check out the page of resources we've put together for you.

    Resource Page

  • Omak's 3F Club: Food, Friends, and Fun During the Holidays

    by Xenia Doualle | Feb 28, 2020

     

    After noticing an increase in discipline between Thanksgiving and holiday break, Omak High School principal David Kirk reached out to the community to open a space for any school-aged child to have access food, friends, and fun, and created the 3F club.

    Interested in this program? Read the full interview (edited for clarity) below.

     

     

    AWSP: Why did you start the 3F Club?

    David Kirk: I taught for several years in Moses Lake and as a teacher I really didn’t see it but becoming an administrator you see it at a different level, the gap between Thanksgiving break and Christmas break where you see discipline go up. For a long time, I didn’t understand why. I come from a two-parent household, my parents weren’t rich and famous, but they always made Christmas good. And it’ didn’t make sense to me at first but there are households in our community where holiday break is not good, and home may not be a safe place. I realized that when we’re talking about going on winter break and having turkey ham and roast beef, or we’re going to do a gathering and all those things, that some of our kids in our community and in my school won’t get that. And their stress level starts to rise between Thanksgiving and Christmas break because everybody’s talking about what they’re doing for break. And sometimes kids their outlet for stress is acting out and not really good behaviors. And then you see that discipline.

    For a long time, I just brought it up as a prayer request to my church, and the church ladies kept coming to me after prayer requests and asked what they could do about this. I would reply that we can’t, that it’s way too big of an elephant. There’s so much logistics, so much legal barriers, there’s so much red tape that we can’t solve this problem. I finally decided to voice this idea and the suggestion to my local Kiwanis group. And one of my friends asked why can’t we do it? She’s very optimistic and positive and said hey, let’s see if we can’t figure this out. We started trying to eat the elephant one bite at a time, and now we have the 3F club.

    We were trying to figure out what to call it. The first idea was “Gap Coverage” because of the gap between the beginning of winter break and when school started. But the name didn’t work out. Someone said kids like being a part of a club. They like being part of an association, a group of some level. So if you can make this a club, they’ll have ownership because they’re part of this club. Then we had to figure out what to call the club. The concept behind it is that it’s food, friends and fun. That’s how we came up with the 3F club. Those are the pieces that hopefully they’re getting here during the week.

    Where does it all happen? How does it work?

    We use the high school, it’s centrally located in our town, and as the high school principal I have the keys, I know the alarm code, I know where the garbage can liners are. I didn’t want this to be a burden on my custodial team, so I clean up after our event and so that way it’s not a burden on anybody else. My custodial crew does an amazing job of keeping my school phenomenal looking. I don’t need them working any harder than they already do.

    When I went to the superintendent and asked to have access to the school, knowing that we were supposed to rent it and we’re supposed to pay for all those things. He said this is a community outreach, the Kiwanis group can have it.

    We run it from 9am to 1pm every day during winter break except for Sundays and the two holidays. The reason why not Sundays was that my first thought on who would come and manage this and helping the elephant was that I was going to go after churches. We have several churches and a community and churches already have a function on a Sunday afternoon. It would be hard for me to try and convince them to come and manage my project. It was originally going to be 10am to 2pm, because my thought process was that I was trying to meet that lunchtime, that middle piece of the day. And when I went in when presented this to the Chamber Commerce, one of the gals who’s in chamber, she’s also in Kiwanis, owns and manages the two local movie theaters in town, and she said, Hey if you move this earlier and go 9 to 1 I can run a free movie from two to four on a few of those days, and that still gives me enough time to run the movie and then still run my evening shows for profit. The program just kept evolving.

    How did the rest of the community get involved?

    I started going and talking to different service groups and organizations. I went to several different individuals from chamber throughout the community; I even went to the Okanagan Chamber of Commerce, five miles south of us. Different groups offered to volunteer, so our local work source takes a day, the Okanagan County Community Coalition I’m a part of takes a day, my favorite day last year was the law enforcement day. From the coalition I have access to several different groups, and last year the law enforcement officers the sheriff’s department Omak City Police, Washington State Patrol, Washington State Fish and Wildlife police all showed up. They were all suited up in their regular garb but could come and hang out with kids and it’s an opportunity for kids to understand that law enforcement officers are regular people who go home and have regular lives, but their function their job is to enforce the laws, and you often see police officers on your worst day. The law enforcement officers get to hang out with kids on their very best day tomorrow. So that’s a pretty exciting opportunity.

    What do kids do when they’re here?

    This year our Kiwanis Group has purchased a bunch of board games. Last year for our very first iteration of this, my children and I went through our house and figured out all the board games and puzzles and coloring books and things for kids to go and have fun with. Our school district our high school has its own ping pong table, so we got the ping pong table out. But this year we decided to take it up one step and we used our public relations officer and our Facebook account for our school and said hey, is there anybody out there who’d like to donate some fun activities. And in doing so I got a Pop-A-Shot, a full blown 9ft long wooden shuffleboard table, fresh out of the box, an air hockey table and foosball table. All donated. They said we could have these if it’s going to be something to help engage kids. When our basketball team is not practicing, we can go down to the gym and shoot a few hoops. We’ve got a Rubik’s Cube teaching kids that apply the Rubik’s cube, and coloring books. It’s open for all ages, so we had to have a variety of different activities for them to do.

    Who can come?

    Anyone who is school aged can come. This is open to not just for the Omak school district but it’s open to any kid who needs to be here. We’re not going to card kids at the door and say, oh you’re from Okanagan, you’re not part of this program. This is a this is a community outreach, not an Omak school district event. So it’s open for any kids who are school aged, and the reasoning why is that I just didn’t want to deal with diapers. But any kid who needs to be here, for whom this is going to be a fun safe place for them to be, because home may not be safe or mom and dad may have a job from 9 to 5during the day; and although it’s great that some families that have time off with kids, for some it’s a burden. Middle school or elementary kids are not old enough to be on their own. So hopefully this provides an solution for them.

    Who can volunteer?

    Adults, as long as they’re connected to whatever organization are more we welcome, but Omak isn’t any different than any other community. We do have a homeless population, and one of the big fears is that we didn’t want to create an environment where adults were coming into this. My objective is to be protecting and ensuring safety for our students. Some of the big red tape that we were worried about is fingerprinting and background checks. You have to have the right people here and people who are OK to be around students and children. And that’s again why I targeted churches because they do a good job of vetting their own programs and their volunteer programs. That’s some of the scary red tape out there that you’re creating an environment that could be a target for people who shouldn’t be here.

    The other piece that is really hard for us and that we haven’t figured out yet is transportation. Last year our local transportation offered free bus passes and they gave 500 free bus passes for that time frame. That’s great, but I have an eight-year-old son and I wouldn’t give him a bus pass. Our school district does a great job with protected bus drivers and bus routes and parents understand that system, but you can’t run a school bus because that’s a gift of public funds when you’re not in function. Having a good reliable transportation system to allow our community members to get their children here is still one of those pieces that we haven’t figured out how to do.

    It’s not perfect yet. If we can figure out that transportation piece, and we do it, we try to do it with good job of advertising, we put it in a local newspaper. I go on our radio before the event and then we do backpack mailers, where we send home the flyer, and hopefully that gets home to parents.

    What about liability and insurance?

    The Kiwanis group carry the insurance waiver, so we assume the insurance and liability for the building during those 11 days. That manages that piece and then the school district allows us to support the facilities to be here.

    How much does it cost?

    All the funding goes through our Kiwanis group. That way it’s not a gift to public funds. That’s why the service organization is helpful. I reach out to a couple of our groups, I go to the Chamber Commerce in Omak, the Chamber of Commerce in Okanagan, our local Rotary, our local Kiwanis and see if they’d be willing to donate funds. Then the Kiwanis group uses those funds and then we go and buy breakfast, a couple boxes of doughnuts, some fruit snacks, oranges and stuff like that for breakfast, and then whoever the sponsoring group of that day is responsible for bringing in lunch. Today the coalition is coming in and they’re doing sloppy joes and Chili.

    Sometimes you have a group out there that says they’ve got a funding source but not the manpower to go and cover a day, and then you have places like our local library who said they’ve got manpower, but not a funding source. So I was able to connect our local Behavioral Health Center’s funding source to our local library for service.

    You can get creative on how to meet two of those needs together. Both of the groups have helped and were amazed because they were able to participate in this event. The cost doesn’t have to be extreme. Our local Weinstein beverage donated a bunch of water and pop and juice and stuff like that, our local grocery store donated plastic wear and plates and napkins so we can serve pizza and sloppy joes. The donations are turned around and used to buy breakfast items and snack foods and trail mix. The community was really eager to help. I was really excited about that. I saw this as a need, I just didn’t know if everybody else saw it.

    When you point out that for some kids Christmas break isn’t that fun exciting time, pocketbooks open up pretty quickly because the parents and the community want to try and serve those needs and help out. It’s really a great opportunity for our community to reach out and support our own.

    What has been the outcome so far?

    Talking about the outcome is tough, because you want happier kids, you want healthier kids, and every school district, ours notwithstanding, is trying to increase school engagement, student happiness and decrease student discipline. We’re all doing several different things to try and make this work. I don’t know if the 3F club is helping. I can just tell myself that it’s not hurting, and that’s what I’m focusing on. I’m meeting a need, at least a perceived need. I’m not fixing the problem with the 3F club. It’s just in case, encouraging kids because a kid who’s feel safe, feels valued, hears their name in a positive way and gets a little nourishment in them is going to be a healthier, happier kid and healthier happier kids have less discipline problems. So it’s hard to measure what we do during these two weeks over the 180 school days but I’m just praying that it’s making a positive influence on our students and they’re becoming better people for it.

    What are your hopes for the students that come here?

    My hope is that they have an opportunity to hang out with some amazing adults. I heard a really neat acronym, NASA, Nice Adults Standing Around. They create relationships and friendships either with other students who show up or other great amazing adults in our community and have people who they can trust if they need to. That’s what I’m hoping for our students. Getting their lunch, we also generate what I call a Go-bag, a reusable bag that’s got a peanut butter and jelly and a tuna fish and a couple of canned soup and a loaf of bread and some fruit snacks. And I’ve got a few of those around the facility and let kids know that if they aren’t going to be we’ll make it back tomorrow but be back here in a couple of days because they can be out of town or can get transportation that they can grab when does go bags and there’s a kind of hopefully meet the same needs at home. And so I’m hoping that in the end that our kids are cared for.

    Any advice for a principal who would like to copy you and start a similar program?

    Feel free to reach out to me. I can guide you on some of the landmines that we skirted and some of the pieces that we did. I would partner with a service organization and have them parent this project. Although I’m a high school principal I’m also the treasurer for our Kiwanis and I’m the board chair for our coalition, and Kiwanis and the coalition are two of the eleven groups that come over. We keep hearing that it takes a community to raise a child or a village to raise a child, activate your village. There’s a lot of people who want to help out. And when you think about fixing all eleven days that’s too much, but if you can get them to donate $100 to buy a couple of pizzas on one day, then you’ve maybe solved a meal for that day. Start small with community members who have the same vision as you.

    And then again don’t hesitate to reach out to me, I’d be more than happy to answer questions or e-mails and hopefully your program is just as good or way better than mine.

  • Retirement & Health Benefits for February 28, 2020

    by Xenia Doualle | Feb 28, 2020

    retire_0417

    It is like balancing an egg on a spoon while shooting the rapids. ~ Colin Jarman

    Mr. Jarman above was describing auto racing. But given the increasing pace of the current legislature projected to end on March 12th, it also describes trying to get one’s proposed legislation through the process.

    Here is a summary of bills that are ‘alive’ to date. (Remember that no bill is really ‘dead’ until Sine Die. Bills with fiscal impacts can be deemed ‘necessary to implement the budget’ (NTIB) or just plain deemed necessary by a majority of a legislative body.)

    Retirement Related Proposals

    Proposed bills dealing with providing a benefit increase to those members in TRS1 and PERS 1 plans can easily be seen as NTIB (Necessary to Implement the Budget) so will remain alive until Session ends.

    SB 5400 | At the request of the Select Committee on Pension Policy grants TRS/PERS Plans 1 beneficiaries, an increase to their monthly benefit of three percent multiplied by the beneficiaries’ monthly benefit, not to exceed sixty-two dollars and fifty cents on the first $25,000 of benefit. Its companion bill is EHB 1390.

    Both bills unanimously passed their respective houses. Both budgets also funded this cost of living adjustment. The challenge is that one of the bills has to still pass out of an appropriations committee, be sent to the respective Rules Committee, be pulled and sent to the respective floor calendar, and then brought before the body for debate and a vote.

    It ’appears’ EHB 1390 will be the vehicle that makes this journey. It has been scheduled for a public hearing on 2/28 before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

    HB 2956 | Introduced late Thursday, 2/27. It proposes to take the extra dollars the state will receive once it repeals the Boeing tax preferences the legislature had granted them in the past to provide funding for the unfunded liabilities in the teachers’ retirement system and the public employees’ retirement system Plans 1. (Boeing has asked for this repeal to avoid receiving substantial fines from the European Union)
    Sponsors: Stokesbary, Fitzgibbon.

    It is NTIB so will be one of many suggested uses of these ‘extra’ Boeing dollars.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB) and Other Health Related Proposals

    ESSB 6189 | Directs the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee to study the number and types of part-time employees that are eligible for School Employees’ Benefits Board coverage. Direct the Health Care Authority to analyze changes to the requirement that employers pay premiums when employees waive coverage. Reports are due Sept. 1, 2021. Prohibits dual enrollment in School Employees’ Benefits Board and Public Employees’ Benefits Board plans.

    This bill passed the Senate 47/1. It has not yet been scheduled before the House Appropriations Committee.

    HB 2458 | Concerning optional benefits offered by school districts. Specifies that school district optional benefits may not compete with any basic or optional benefits offered through the School Employees’ Benefits Board. Grants school districts express authority to offer employee-paid, voluntary benefits to school employees that are paid by employees through a payroll deduction that may fall under the SEB Board’s authority, but that are not being provided by the SEB Board. This can include personal lines homeowner’s insurance, private passenger automobile insurance, and accident only, specified disease, and other fixed payment benefit insurance. Includes a legislative finding that supplemental fixed payment insurance plans offer financial protection and do not conflict or compete with basic medical or disability plans.

    This bill passed the House 97/0 had a public hearing on Feb. 26th and is scheduled for Executive Action before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on 2/28.

    HB 2325 | The 2019–21 the proposed Supplemental Budget adopted an amendment that directs the office of the superintendent of public instruction, in consultation with the healthcare authority, to study and report on school districts’ utilization of substitute teachers and the impact of the school employees’ benefits board program on substitute teacher staffing. By December 1, 2020, and in compliance with RCW 43.01.036, the office of the superintendent of public instruction must submit the report to the appropriate fiscal and policy committees of the legislature. The report must include the following: * (i) The number of individual and full-time equivalent substitute teachers employed in the 2018–19 and 2019–20 school years by district. * (ii) Substitute teachers as a percentage of classroom teachers for the 2018–19 and 2019–20 school years by district. * (iii) The number of substitute teachers eligible for the school employees’ benefits board program by district. * (iv) Impacts, both positive and negative, of the school employees’ benefits board program on substitute teacher staffing.
    * (v) Options for substitute teacher eligibility under the school employees’ benefits board program, including possible exceptions for substitute teachers.
    * (vi) Recommendations for preserving an adequate pool of substitute teachers while consistently classifying substitute teachers for health benefits eligibility. The bill passed the Appropriations’ Committee and has been sent to House Rules for further action.

    Other Bills

    ESHB 1813 | Mandates that the costs of contracted employee health and retirement benefits must be built into school district contracts for pupil transportation.

    This bill passed the House 60/36. The Senate Early Learning and K–12 Education Committee had a brief public hearing and it is scheduled for Executive Action on 2/28.

    The Chair had thirteen bills to hear during the public hearing and only selected representatives from two school districts and the Teamster’s Union to testify. Others, like WASA, (who was opposed/con), were asked to submit their testimony in writing to members of the committee. This issue is clearly dear to the heart of the Rep. Claire Wilson, Vice-Chair of the committee and so is likely to pass the committee and be sent to Senate Rules.

    Read the written comments/testimony that WASA would have given to the committee.

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/HR Impacts For Districts

    SHB 2614 | Concerning paid family and medical leave. Makes numerous revisions to the Paid Family and Medical Leave program to provide clarity and improve the program’s administration, including waiting periods, conditional waivers, and supplementation of benefits. Exempts casual labor from the types of covered employment. Grants the Employment Security Department (ESD) statutory authority to administer oaths, take depositions, issue subpoenas, or compel a witness’ attendance in an administrative proceeding. Allows ESD to apply for and obtain a superior court order authorizing a subpoena in advance of its issuance. Authorizes employees to bring a private right of action to recover damages for an employer’s unlawful acts, under specified conditions.

    This bill is agency request legislation. It has been passed to Senate Rules for further action.

    HB 2739 | Adjusting certain requirements of the shared leave program. Provides that state employees seeking shared leave due to illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition are not required to deplete all of their annual and sick leave before receiving shared leave. Allows intermittent and non-consecutive use of shared leave.

    This bill has been moved to Senate Rules for further action.

    ESSB 5473 | Studying the impact of making unemployment benefits accessible to persons with family responsibilities and other availability issues and making clarifying changes.

    This bill has been moved to House Rules for further action.

    SB 6123 | Allowing state employee leave for organ donation. Requires agencies to allow employees to take paid leave as needed, not exceeding 30 days in a two-year period, for participate in life-giving procedures.

    This bill has been referred to House Rules for further action.

    Fred Yancey/ Mike Moran
    The Nexus Group

  • AWSP New for February 23, 2020

    by Xenia Doualle | Feb 21, 2020

     

    In this episode of AWSP News, we discuss:

    • Future Educators Month and our Future School Leaders Day,
    • our “Give ‘em your keys” campaign,
    • Black History Month,
    • nominations for Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year,
    • a new survey out about graduation pathway options,
    • our HB 1599 Fact or Fiction series,
    • a new graduation requirements workshop,
    • a new texting service from the Washington Student Achievement Council,
    • 2020 WA State Teacher of the Year Amy Campbell,
    • the next issue of Washington Principal magazine, and
    • an event on March 9th organized by the Koshka Foundation for Safe Schools.

    Prefer to read the news? Check out the script.

  • Retirement & Health Benefits for February 21, 2020

    by David Morrill | Feb 21, 2020
    retirement-health_072315

    “Show me the money….” ~ From the film Jerry Maguire

    Proposed bills have now either passed their respective chambers and are awaiting further action in the opposite house, or they are ‘dead’. Remember that no bill is really ‘dead’ until Sine Die. Bills with fiscal impacts can be deemed ‘necessary to implement the budget’ (NTIB) or just plain deemed necessary by a majority of a legislative body.

    Bills now move relatively quickly with public hearings and often same-day executive sessions.

    Here is a summary of bills that are ‘alive’ to date,

    Retirement Related Proposals

    Proposed bills dealing with providing a benefit increase to those members in TRS1 and PERS 1 plans can easily be seen as NTIB (Necessary to Implement the Budget) so will remain alive until Session ends.

    SSB 5400 at the request of the Select Committee on Pension Policy grants TRS/PERS Plans 1 beneficiaries an increase to their monthly benefit of three percent multiplied by the beneficiaries’ monthly benefit, not to exceed sixty-two dollars and fifty cents on the first $25,000 of benefit. Its companion bill is EHB 1390.

    Both bills unanimously passed their respective houses, SSB 5400 (48–0) and EHB 1390 (98–0).

    Senator Ann Rivers proposed an amendment to bump the increase to 5% plus $100 on the benefit. It failed 24–24 with Lieutenant Governor Habib casting the deciding “No” vote.

    The upcoming release of the budgets, (both are coming out Monday, the 24th), will show if this increase is funded. Cost is estimated to be $19 million dollars.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB) and Other Health Related Proposals

    ESSB 6189 | Directs the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee to study the number and types of part-time employees that are eligible for School Employees’ Benefits Board coverage. Direct the Health Care Authority to analyze changes to the requirement that employers pay premiums when employees waive coverage. Reports are due Sept. 1, 2021. Prohibits dual enrollment in School Employees’ Benefits Board and Public Employees’ Benefits Board plans.

    This bill passed the Senate 47–1.

    Two issues continue to come to mind:

    1. The district cost data is not due until 2021 which is too far in the future particularly since it would be the 2022 Session that could address any concerns that came to light, and
    2. It does nothing to address the unfunded costs districts are paying for SEBB enrollees.

    HB 2458 | Concerning optional benefits offered by school districts.

    Specifies that school district optional benefits may not compete with any basic or optional benefits offered through the School Employees’ Benefits Board. Grants school districts express authority to offer employee-paid, voluntary benefits to school employees that are paid by employees through a payroll deduction and provides examples of those benefits. Includes intent language and a legislative finding that supplemental fixed payment insurance plans offer financial protection and do not conflict or compete with basic medical or disability plans.

    Watch the debate on the bill from 47:08.

    This bill passed the House 97–0 and is scheduled for a public hearing on February 2nd at 3:30 PM before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

    Other Bills

    ESHB 1813 | Mandates that the costs of contracted employee health and retirement benefits must be built into school district contracts for pupil transportation.

    The House passed this bill (60–36). It has been referred to the Senate Early Learning and K–12 Education Committee.

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/Hr Impacts For Districts

    SHB 2614 | Concerning paid family and medical leave.

    Makes numerous revisions to the Paid Family and Medical Leave program to provide clarity and improve the program’s administration, including waiting periods, conditional waivers, and supplementation of benefits. Exempts casual labor from the types of covered employment. Grants the Employment Security Department (ESD) statutory authority to administer oaths, take depositions, issue subpoenas, or compel a witness’ attendance in an administrative proceeding. Allows ESD to apply for and obtain a superior court order authorizing a subpoena in advance of its issuance. Authorizes employees to bring a private right of action to recover damages for an employer’s unlawful acts, under specified conditions. This bill is agency request legislation.

    It is scheduled on February 25th for Executive Session before the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee.

    HB 2739 | Adjusting certain requirements of the shared leave program. Provides that state employees seeking shared leave due to illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition are not required to deplete all of their annual and sick leave before receiving shared leave. Allows intermittent and non-consecutive use of shared leave.

    This bill passed the House 96–1 and is scheduled for Executive Session on February 26th before the Senate State Government Committee.

    ESSB 5473 | Studying the impact of making unemployment benefits accessible to persons with family responsibilities and other availability issues and making clarifying changes. This bill passed the Senate 40–6 and is scheduled for Executive Session on February 24th before the House Labor Committee.

    SB 6123 | Allowing state employee leave for organ donation. Requires agencies to allow employees to take paid leave as needed, not exceeding 30 days in a two-year period, for participate in life-giving procedures.

    This bill passed the House 47–0 and has been scheduled for Executive Session February 21st before the House State Government Committee.

    Fred Yancey/ Mike Moran
    The Nexus Group

  • Seniors Have Financial Aid Questions? OtterBot Has Answers.

    by David Morrill | Feb 20, 2020

     

    otterbot logo

     

    What is Otterbot? 

    Otterbot is a free texting service designed to help Washington high school seniors navigate financial aid for college and career education. Students can access Otterbot via text message 24 hours a day, seven days a week by texting "Hi Otter" to 360-928-7281.

    How does Otterbot work? 

    After a student signs up for Otter, they will receive periodic messages with need-to-know financial aid information, resources, suggestions, dates, and deadlines. When a student gets a text from Otter, they may follow-up with questions by replying directly to the message. 

    Students can also text Otter at any time for help; it will provide them with answers or direct them to helpful resources. If Otter receives a question it cannot answer, it will send the message to a financial aid expert from the Washington Student Achievement Council.

    Otterbot was created in 2019 to support students who have signed up for the College Bound Scholarship, and is managed by AdmitHub and the Washington Student Achievement Council. Our combined partnership ensures Washington students have access to helpful financial aid resources any time they need support.

    WSAC Contact

    Sarah Weiss
    Associate Director of College Access & Support
    collegebound@wsac.wa.gov
    Phone: 888.535.0747 

    OtterBot Flyer

  • Retirement & Health Benefits for February 14, 2020

    by David Morrill | Feb 13, 2020
    retirement-health_072315

    “I was brought up imagining that cream rises to the top, merit wins out, the race is to the swift and riches to men of understanding, but it ain’t necessarily so……” – Garrison Keillor

    The first deadlines have come and gone. Action now shifts to the floor of each chamber. A bill needs to be brought out of the Rules Committee, put on the floor calendar, and then brought before the body for debate and vote. This process has to have all bills out of their chambers by February 19th. Then the process starts over with committee hearings and votes on opposite house bills – however at a much more rapid pace.

    Currently, there are over 300 bills sitting in the House Rules Committee and around 343 bills before Senate Rules. The challenge now becomes how to get one’s bill to rise above the herd and move to the floor? Admittedly, one hopes some bills don’t make the cut. Many won’t.

    Enough said.

    Here is a summary of bills that are ‘alive’ of import to districts, remembering that no bill is really ‘dead’ until Sine Die.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    Proposed bills dealing with providing a benefit increase to those members in TRS1 and PERS 1 plans can easily be seen as NTIB (Necessary to Implement the Budget) so will remain alive until Session ends.

    SB 5400 at the request of the Select Committee on Pension Policy grants TRS/PERS Plans 1 beneficiaries an increase to their monthly benefit of three percent multiplied by the beneficiaries’ monthly benefit, not to exceed sixty-two dollars and fifty cents on the first $25,000 of benefit. This bill unanimously passed the Senate Ways and Means committee and was sent to Rules.

    Its companion bill, HB 1390 remains in House Rules awaiting a move to the House floor for action. A letter was crafted by Representative Mari Leavitt with the support of Representatives Kloba and Rude urging the adoption of HB 1390. Fifty-nine members of the House signed the letter in support of granting this COLA.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB) and Other Health Related Proposals

    SSB 6189 | Adds a study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee of school employees by type and eligibility for health care benefits. Study due July 1, 2021. Directs HCA to analyze the impacts to the state and by school district of changes to the waiver policy. Report due January 1, 2020. Modifies an existing requirement that school districts report to OSPI on the number of substitute teachers to also include the number of hours worked and how many are eligible for health care benefits. Also modifies the single enrollment options.

    This bill in Senate Rules.

    Two issues come to mind:

    1. The district cost data is not due until 2021 which is too far in the future particularly since it would be the 2022 Session that could address any concerns that came to light, and
    2. It does nothing to address the unfunded costs districts are paying for SEBB enrollees.

    HB 2458/ SB 6479 Concerning optional benefits offered by school districts.

    These bills allow for districts to continue offering some benefits that are not in competition with those offered by SEBB. If SEBB is not providing the benefit, then a jurisdiction should be able to provide it. It was pointed out that these benefits are employee paid. Examples would include VEBA, cancer insurance, auto insurance, etc.

    These bills were moved out of their committees. Both bills are in their respective Rules Committee. There are expected amendments that have yet to surface.

    Other Bills

    ESHB 1813 mandates that the costs of contracted employee health and retirement benefits must be built into school district contracts for pupil transportation.

    The House passed this bill (60–36). It has been referred to the Senate Early Learning and K–12 Education Committee.

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/Hr Impacts For Districts

    HB 2264 | Increasing the cap on accrued vacation leave. Increases the cap on accrued vacation leave for state employees from 240 hours to 280 hours. This bill is in House Rules.

    SHB 2614/ SSB 6349 Concerning paid family and medical leave. This bill is agency request legislation clearing up some areas with the family and medical leave act, laying out penalty process steps and clarifying certain issues. SHB 2614 Exempts casual labor from the types of covered by Paid Family and Medical Leave employment. Provides for a private right of action, liquidated damages payable directly to employees, and specifies other enforcement provisions. Makes changes regarding waiting periods, conditional waivers, supplementation of benefits, and other matters.

    SHB 2614 passed the House 60–37. The Senate bill remains in Rules.

    HB 2739 | Adjusting certain requirements of the shared leave program. Provides that state employees seeking shared leave due to illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition are not required to deplete all of their annual and sick leave before receiving shared leave. Allows intermittent and non-consecutive use of shared leave.

    This bill is in House Rules awaiting further action.

    SSB 5473 | Studying the impact of making unemployment benefits accessible to persons with family responsibilities and other availability issues and making clarifying changes. This bill is in Senate Rules.

    SB 6123 | Allowing state employee leave for organ donation. Requires agencies to allow employees to take paid leave as needed, not exceeding 30 days in a two-year period, for participate in life-giving procedures.

    This bill has been moved to the floor calendar for action by the body.

    Fred Yancey/ Mike Moran
    The Nexus Group

  • Two Washington Students Selected for United States Senate Youth Program

    by David Morrill | Feb 13, 2020

    January 9, 2020, Washington, D.C. —The United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) announces that high school students Ms. Dana S. Ahmed and Mr. Andre James Ramsey will join Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell in representing Washington in the nation’s capital during the 58th annual USSYP Washington Week, to be held March 7 — 14, 2020. Dana Ahmed of Kennewick and Andre Ramsey of Spokane were selected from among the state’s top student leaders to be part of the 104 national student delegation who will also each receive a $10,000 college scholarship for undergraduate study.

    The USSYP was created by Senate Resolution 324 in 1962 and has been sponsored by the Senate and fully funded by The Hearst Foundations since inception. Originally proposed by Senators Kuchel, Mansfield, Dirksen and Humphrey, the impetus for the program as stated in Senate testimony is "to increase young Americans’ understanding of the interrelationships of the three branches of government, learn the caliber and responsibilities of federally elected and appointed officials, and emphasize the vital importance of democratic decision making not only for America but for people around the world."

    Each year this extremely competitive merit-based program brings the most outstanding high school students - two from each state, the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense Education Activity - to Washington, D.C. for an intensive week-long study of the federal government and the people who lead it. The overall mission of the program is to help instill within each class of USSYP student delegates more profound knowledge of the American political process and a lifelong commitment to public service. In addition to the program week, The Hearst Foundations provide each student with a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship with encouragement to continue coursework in government, history and public affairs. Transportation and all expenses for Washington Week are also provided by The Hearst Foundations; as stipulated in S.Res.324, no government funds are utilized.

    Dana Ahmed, a senior at Kamiakin High School, serves as her school's Student Body president. She is also involved in Key Club, Link Crew, the Racial Equity and Social Justice Coalition, and is a member of the Student Voice and Advocacy Committee for the Association of Washington Student Leaders. Dana plans to have a career in medicine and is also interested in studying political science. She hopes to attend the University of Washington in Seattle, Stanford University in California or Howard University in Washington, D.C.

    Andre Ramsey, a junior at John R. Rogers High School, serves as the Student Body treasurer. He is the Area 11 president and the vice president of Leadership for Washington DECA, an organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. Andre is the student representative to the Spokane School Board and is a 2019 Carson Scholar. Andre plans to attend Harvard University in the fall of 2021, with a double major in business administration and political science. He hopes to work in both business and politics in the future.

    Chosen as alternates to the 2020 program were Ms. Jazzell Petra Tovar, a resident of Grandview, who attends Grandview High School and Ms. Isabella K. Camarillo, a resident of Pasco, who attends Chiawana High School.

    Delegates and alternates are selected by the state departments of education nationwide and the District of Columbia and Department of Defense Education Activity, after nomination by teachers and principals. The chief state school officer for each jurisdiction confirms the final selection. This year’s Washington delegates and alternates were designated by Chris Reykdal, State Superintendent of Education.

    While in Washington the student delegates attend meetings and briefings with senators, members of the House of Representatives, Congressional staff, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, an ambassador to the United States and senior members of the national media.

    In addition to outstanding leadership abilities and a strong commitment to volunteer work, the student delegates rank academically in the top one percent of their states among high school juniors and seniors. Now more than 5,700 strong, alumni of the program continue to excel and develop impressive qualities that are often directed toward public service. Among the many distinguished alumni are: Senator Susan Collins, the first alumnus to be elected U.S. senator; Senator Cory Gardner, the second alumnus to be elected U.S. senator and the first to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the first alumnus to be elected governor; former Chief Judge Robert Henry, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit; former Ambassador to West Germany Richard Burt, former presidential advisors Thomas "Mack" McLarty and Karl Rove, and Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana currently a candidate for president of the United States. Additional notables include former Lt. Governor of Idaho David Leroy, Provost of Wake Forest University Rogan Kersh, military officers, members of state legislatures, Foreign Service officers, top congressional staff, healthcare providers and other university educators.

    Questions about your state’s delegates, alternates or state selection process:
    Email Roz Thompson or call at (360) 357-7951.

    For general information about the United States Senate Youth Program:
    Email Program Director Ms. Rayne Guilford or call at (800) 425-3632.

  • January 2020 Leadership & Advocacy Meeting Summary

    by David Morrill | Feb 07, 2020

    Our AWSP and Foundation Board met January 25–26, our Grade Level Leadership Committees met on the 26th and 27th, and on the 28th, members of each joined our Advocacy Advisory Council for our annual Day on the Hill. We want to thank all the principals and assistant principals, plus special guests, who sacrificed time away from friends, family, and school to advocate for school leaders and students across the state.


    AWSP/WSPEF

    Our AWSP Board met Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, highlighted by a great 90-minute Q&A with State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, who covered topics and fielded questions on dual credit, elementary lunch and recess, discipline and as always, funding and staffing. The board also got a great update from Greg Barker on AWSL and our Learning Centers (see below), heard financial updates, and discussed changes to our governance structure and standard operating procedures.


    Elementary

    The Elementary Grade Level Leadership Committee continued its focus from our fall meeting by distributing a copy of The Educational Leaders Guide to Improvement Science to each regional director (RD). Each RD will choose an area in their school they want to know more about and using this resource, schedule two check-in calls with another RD accountability partner to share their learning, reflection, and action using the book as a guide.

    Committee members reviewed the AWSP Advocacy platform and wrote notes in support of the platform to their legislators—notes were delivered to legislators on AWSP Day on the Hill, January 27.

    Four members of our committee attending the National Learning Forward Conference in St. Louis in December. Two members shared out key learnings with the committee and shared resources.

    Dr. Glenna Gallo and Tania May, from OSPI came to share data and implications around MTSS and Inclusionary practices. MTSS is a framework for equity as well as access for many students in our buildings.

    Finally, we discussed open leadership positions within the AWSP Elementary Grade Level Committee. Open positions for the 20–21 school year are:

    • Vice Chair (westside),
    • At Large Urban School Representative,
    • At Large Rural School Representative, and
    • Budget Chair.

    Interested principals should contact Associate Director, Gina Yonts, to share their interest.


    Middle Level

    Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) tips and tools , Justyn Poulos, OSPI Dir. MTSS

    What is MTSS? A framework for enhancing the adoption and implementation of a continuum of evidence-based practices to achieve important outcomes for all students a framework. Essentially, a proven method of organizing and making effective the work of the adults.

    Values – inclusion, equity, collaboration, family engagement

    The triangle of support – we think about where the student fits on the triangle; to flip that, think about that student’s needs in different venues – think about the triangle as the way we structure supports and adults

    5 components of MTSS implementation (team-driven, data-based decisions, continuum of support; family, student, community engagement; Evidence-based practices)

    What are the drivers that make effective MTSS happen?

    • Rule #1 – assume NOTHING – teach EVERYTHING!
    • Rule #2 – Frequency fosters fluency

    PBIS – A Multi-tiered system for supporting behavior.

    The # of schools using PBIS nationally is growing (thousands world-wide) – it’s about the fidelity of implementation (measured by the Tiered Fidelity Inventory)

    Expected Outcomes – following the faithful implementation of PBIS:

    • Positive student outcomes
    • Decrease of suspensions/exclusions
    • Better use of adult time

    What IS fidelity/full implementation?

    5–7 year journey

    Short-, medium-, and long-term change

    Premature adoption (w/o established need & policy support & building an infrastructure is likely to fail) “A false start is not a neutral experience.”

    Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) tips and tools

    NASSP Report & Advocacy

    • Recent action alerts
    • LGBTQ+
    • Vaping

    Check out NASSP position papers on the web site (new: poverty, trauma-informed schools, resource officers) – we can request position papers

    Our legislative platform will focus on mental health resources; rectifying principal pay; Student Voice; SPED Resources

    Inclusion Q&A with Dr. Glenna Gallo & Tania May

    Strong evidence of inclusion from principals includes:

    • Looking at where students are (DATA)
    • Examining mindsets of staff…what are the beliefs and practices
    • Supporting an effective PLC
    • Shifting the classroom support

    When it comes to shifting classroom support, students need access to those with the most content knowledge. Have the para in the classroom monitor students as they work while the teacher provides flexible grouping and instruction for struggling students.

    Are we allowing the system to drive the IEP minutes? Especially as students move from elementary to middle school?

    There are no minimum minutes required on an IEP – Should be based on student’s needs…not what the schedule allows

    Probe with questions when the minutes or classes may be institutionalized within the system: “Tell me your thought process around that?”

    Help with understanding funding streams with SpEd, LAP, Title 1 Start with staff beliefs; spends most of the day in classrooms; uses data to look at classroom practice; PLC model; A strategy – make sure students have access to those with the most content knowledge – Para monitors behavior while teacher uses flexible grouping

    Specific questions asked by Middle Level Committee members…

    • What do SPED teachers do if all students are in gen. ed classes? It depends on the capacity of your regular ed teachers to develop strategies, supports, curricula, monitoring progress. You may see a decline in para support. (IEP minutes are typically based on history, not actual student-need.); master scheduling increases in importance when you try to address IEP minutes differently (a burst of instruction instead of a class period, for instance).

    • How do we better transition student services from elementary to MS? Spring transition meeting; invite the family; if you have to redo IEP’s at the transition, that is a prime indicator minutes are being driven by schedules.

    • Where is help for new special educators? Is there pre-service training on inclusionary practices? (Michael) Some connections with education programs, and with CEEDARS; some work with PESB, etc. It’s in process but moving slowly; two current resources: Master schedule Webinar & McMicken Elementary in Highline (they have an inclusion document or video that might be helpful).

    • Can we receive a consistent messaging from OSPI about how things should be re: Minutes, SDI, etc.? The litigious nature of Special Education makes inclusion difficult. A manual is being developed currently that will provide some guidance. SDI is anything special instruction-wise for that student is SDI. There is no magic number attached to the minutes – it’s based on need.

    High School

    The High School Leadership Committee of AWSP recently held their winter meeting in which a variety of topics related to the principalship were discussed. Committee members coming from across the state learned about enhancing school culture, discussed inclusion, shared best practices around graduation pathways, and discussed the merits of bills that have been introduced this legislative session.

    School Culture:

    Jason Smith, Principal Rogers High School Puyallup, shared practical advice and provided the group with concrete examples of how to enrich and enhance school culture. Lifting student voice, giving value to relationships, and creating a leadership class in his school were some of the things he shared.

    Inclusion:

    Brent Osborn, Lakeside High School (Nine Mile Falls), facilitated a conversation around inclusion and inclusionary practices. He spoke about how to lead work around inclusion in your school, asked committee members to paint a picture of inclusion in their school and discussed how to determine if a student’s schedule is LRE 1, 2, or 3.

    Graduation Pathways:

    The group was prompted by questions revolving around the pathways and their implementation in their school. Confusion around a few of the pathway options was clarified and principals were encouraged to create a Graduation Pathways team that meets regularly to smooth the implementation and assist students.

    Legislative Bills:

    Roz Thompson, AWSP Director of Governmental Relations, shared a few bills that relate to high schools. The biggest of them being a dual credit bill that would make all dual credit options free to students. The cost of credits and exams would be paid for by the school/district.


    Inclusive Practices Presentation

    Both Glenna Gallo, the Assistant Superintendent of Special Education for OSPI, as well as Tania May, the Director of Special Education for OSPI, spent time with our principal advisory boards January 25th launching the Inclusionary Practices Professional Development Project. Both Glenna and Tania set the stage utilizing student data and extensive research to frame why inclusion has become a focus for our collective work across the state.

    As one of six providers selected by OSPI to offer professional learning for inclusion, AWSP’s goal is to partner with and support as you navigate leading for complex change in your buildings. Principals are leading culture, systems and learning in dynamic ways across the state and we are excited to connect and learn what great things are happening as you engage your staffs and systems in inclusionary practices and how we can grow together in leading for improved outcomes for all students.

    Take our inclusion survey so we can better understand current practice and needs around the state.


    Advocacy Advisory Council Day on the Hill

    Chris Reykdal met with our AWSP Executive Board on Friday afternoon to talk about a variety of different policy issues including dual credit and discipline rules.

    Grade level committees spent time discussing additional topics including inclusion, MTSS, and graduation requirements.

    Principals on each grade level committee participated in our “virtual” Day on the Hill action alert. 107 separate actions were sent (emails, Tweets or Facebook messages).

    Approximately 40 principals and assistant principals attended our Day on the Hill event on Sunday/Monday. We met with Rep. Monica Stonier on Sunday evening and then met with about 60 different legislators throughout the day on Monday. A smaller group met with Chris Reykdal at OSPI on Monday afternoon. A big thank you to all who participated–virtually and in-person!


    Foundation/WSPEF

    Chewelah Peak looking at the need for a marketing plan, some variation to spaces (sound mitigation with sound tiles and partitioning of some dorm spaces), winter programming, and an identified need for a support staff position. AWSL is working towards online registrations with the 18 summer programs, firmed up our partnership with Washington Activity Coordinator Association (all attendees at WACA conference is comprised of AWSL member schools), connections with paradigm to program curriculum (IGE), and continuing our work in equity, opportunity, and access.

    Outdoor School for All:

    Working towards 2021 legislation for funding of outdoor school for all elementary (grades 5 or 6). This is a collaborative effort with Cowlitz Tribes, Western Washington University, and over 40 outdoor facilities (camps, learning centers, facilities).

    Cispus: Capital Improvements

    Cispus is on National Forest land under the Granger-Thye Act which expires in 2025. We are working towards a viable conveyance of the property to ESD113. Cispus campus has many infrastructures that were built in the 60s with minimal updates. Meetings toward improvements with Forest Service and other possible funding sources.

    Chewelah Peak

    Marketing – there was a general discussion of the need to get “our story” out there. One concrete suggestion was rebranding the center as “The Peak” based on the idea that best practice is a one/two-syllable name.

    Partitions in dorms – it was suggested that we look at how we might create flexibility in gender separation in the dorm with movable partitions.

    Shared Dorm Space – there was a discussion on working to get groups to share dorm space.

    Bathroom Space in Upper A – it was suggested that we look at how we can increase the bathroom space to make it easier for maximizing use of that floor.

    Acoustical Tiles in Lodge – It was suggested that we get a professional proposal for working on the acoustics in the lodge.

    Acoustical Tiles in Meeting Hall – it was suggested that we work to improve the acoustics in the Meeting Hall to encourage its use by multiple breakout groups.

    Winter Programming – it was agreed that an area of great potential is in winter environmental programming.

    Additional staffing – there was a discussion on the need for additional staffing. It was suggested that one potential was to have a shared Learning Center/Leadership staff position assigned to the center.

    Learning Centers Missions

    The Cispus Learning Center will furnish functional, esthetically sound facilities and curricular resources for supporting outdoor education and leadership training to young people. In addition, Cispus will provide facilities and outdoor education learning opportunities to various adult and student groups which are deemed compatible with the Cispus setting.

    The Chewelah Peak Learning Center supports applied environmental education and leadership training for students by providing curricular resources and functional, aesthetic facilities located in a wilderness setting. Chewelah Peak also provides facilities for students and adults groups whose purpose is compatible with the center’s commitment to education and respect for the environment.

  • Retirement & Health Benefits for February 7, 2020

    by David Morrill | Feb 07, 2020
    retirement-health_072315

    The beat goes on, the beat goes on,
    Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain,
    La de da de de, la de da de da. –– Sonny Bono

    Legislative actions continue. As this is being written, the deadline for policy bills to leave committees has arrived. The next cut-off is February 11 for all bills that have a fiscal or monetary impact – either positive or negative. The Legislature’s fiscal committees, Senate Ways and Means and House Finance and Appropriations will be very busy – possibly working this weekend (House Appropriations) and late into the evenings trying to hear all of the bills dropped into them by the policy committees.

    Then the big cut-off is on February 19 – House of Origin. All House bills have to have been voted on and moved to the Senate and vice versa. Then the process starts over with committee hearings and votes – however with a much more rapid pace.

    The one thing to remember through all these cut-offs is that they can all be overruled. Below is a summary of bills that have had some degree of action to date. Given the current deadlines agendas and announcements as to what bills are being heard and or acted upon by committee change constantly.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    Proposed bills dealing with providing a benefit increase to those members in TRS1 and PERS 1 plans have been introduced.

    Ways and Means’ Committee Chair Christine Rolfes held a public hearing on SB 5400 the afternoon of February 7th. She indicated that she would like it to be the vehicle continuing a discussion about a cost of living increase (COLA). Ideally, this bill will be exec’d on Tuesday of next week.

    This bill is at the request of the Select Committee on Pension Policy. It requires beneficiaries who are receiving a monthly benefit from the public employees’ retirement system plan 1 or the teachers’ retirement system plan 1 on July 1, 2018, to receive, effective July 1, 2019, an increase to their monthly benefit of three percent multiplied by the beneficiaries’ monthly benefit, not to exceed sixty-two dollars and fifty cents on the first $25,000 of benefit.

    Its companion bill, HB 1390 remains in House Rules awaiting a move to the House floor for action.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB) and Other Health Related Proposals

    There are three bills heard earlier in the session dealing with SEBB. They take various approaches in dealing with employee and retiree eligibility and district costs. Each has some differences.

    The bills are:

    • SB 6189 | Clarifying eligibility for school employees’ benefits board coverage.
    • SB 6290 | Concerning contributions to and eligibility for school employee benefit plan.
    • SB 6296 | Concerning health care benefits for public school employees.

    At this point, none have moved. SB 6189’s hearing was on a substitute bill that called for a study, but even that bill has shown no further movement.

    HB 2458/SB 6479 | Concerning optional benefits offered by school districts.

    These bills allow for districts to continue offering some benefits that are not in competition with those offered by SEBB. If SEBB is not providing the benefit, then a jurisdiction should be able to provide it. It was pointed out that these benefits are employee paid. Examples would include VEBA, cancer insurance, auto insurance, etc.

    These bills were moved out of their committees. HB 2458 has not yet been assigned to either Appropriations or the Rules Committee. SB 6479 was sent to Senate Rules.

    Apparently, the Health Care Authority/SEBB will be suggesting some amendments that are deemed ‘technical’. According to SEBB staff, these will clarify that SEBB has sole authority to offer any life or disability products. (Cancer insurance may be an example of a product that only SEBB could offer.) Staff has indicated they are not aware of any technical corrections regarding VEBA’s. So, if either bill passes the legislature, districts could resume offering VEBA’s among other potential benefits.
    At this point, the proposed amendments need to surface.

    Other Bills

    ESHB 1813 mandates that the costs of contracted employee health and retirement benefits must be built into school district contracts for pupil transportation.

    Specifically, the bill digest reads: Requires a pupil transportation services contract to include: (1) Sufficient funds specifically for the contracting employer to provide the employees of the contractor with an employer health benefits contribution equal to the monthly school employer funding rate for the school employees’ benefits board program, less the retiree remittance for the public employees’ benefits board; and (2) An amount equivalent to the total employer and employee contribution rate to the school employees’ retirement system, multiplied by the estimated salaries of the employees of the contractor.

    The House passed this bill (60–36). It has been referred to the Senate Early Learning and K–12 Education Committee.

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/Hr Impacts For Districts

    HB 2171 | Concerning vested vacation or paid time off upon an employee’s termination. If an employer has an established policy, practice, or agreement to provide paid vacation or paid time off, and an employee is terminated from employment by death, reduction in force, resignation, dismissal, or retirement, any of the employee’s unused vested vacation time or paid time off must be paid to the employee as wages at the employee’s final rate in accordance with the employment policy, practice, or agreement with respect to eligibility and vesting requirements.

    This bill is awaiting a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee.

    HB 2264 | Increasing the cap on accrued vacation leave. Increases the cap on accrued vacation leave for state employees from 240 hours to 280 hours. This bill is scheduled for Executive Action on 2/8 by the House Appropriations Committee.

    HB 2304 | Concerning shared leave and industrial insurance benefits. This bill removes the requirement that an employee pursue and be found ineligible for industrial insurance wage benefits for shared leave eligibility. Specifies that an employee receiving both types of benefits not receive more than their full salary. It is scheduled for Executive Action in House Appropriations on 2/8.

    SHB 2614/SB 6349 | Concerning paid family and medical leave. This bill is agency request legislation clearing up some areas with the family and medical leave act, laying out penalty process steps and clarifying certain issues.

    HB 2614 had a public hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on 2/3 and is scheduled for Executive Action on 2/8.

    SB 6349 remains in second reading in Senate Rules.

    HB 2739 | Adjusting certain requirements of the shared leave program. Provides that state employees seeking shared leave due to illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition are not required to deplete all of their annual and sick leave before receiving shared leave. Allows intermittent and non-consecutive use of shared leave.

    This bill is in House Rules awaiting further action.

    HB 2740 | Concerning the employment of individuals who lawfully consume marijuana. This may nor may not affect school districts since all are posted “Drug Free Zones”, but it may be worth a look.

    Although scheduled for Executive Action on 2/4, no action was taken.

    SSB 5473 | Studying the impact of making unemployment benefits accessible to persons with family responsibilities and other availability issues and making clarifying changes. This bill is in Senate Rules.

    SB 6123 | Allowing state employee leave for organ donation. Requires agencies to allow employees to take paid leave as needed, not exceeding 30 days in a two-year period, for participate in life-giving procedures. This bill passed Ways and Means and will likely move to Senate Rules.

    SB 6368 | Concerning sick leave for K–12 employees. Leave provided in this proviso not taken shall accumulate from year to year with no cap. Such accumulated time may be taken at any time during the school year may be used for the purpose of payments for unused sick leave in accordance with RCW 28A.400.210.

    This bill is scheduled for Executive Action on 2/7.

    Fred Yancey/ Mike Moran
    The Nexus Group

  • AWSP News for February 9, 2020

    by Xenia Doualle | Feb 06, 2020

     

    In this episode of AWSP News, we discuss:

    • February as Future Educators Month,
    • our “Give ‘Em Your Keys Campaign”,
    • AWSP’s third annual Future School Leaders Day,
    • our Networked Community Improvement grant,
    • Black History Month,
    • our January Leadership and Advocacy weekend,
    • the AWSP Day on the Hill,
    • Senate Bill 6615,
    • AWSL’s Middle-Level Regionals,
    • Summer Conference and a way to help fund your participation,
    • and a reminder to nominate someone for Principal of the Year or Assistant Principal of the Year.

    Prefer to read the News? Check out the script.

  • OSPI School Safety Tips for February

    by Xenia Doualle | Feb 03, 2020


    Groundhog Day.  We look for a sign: winter coming to a close or continuing for 6 more weeks!  Valentine’s Day. We share signs of love and appreciation. Presidents Day. We recognize our presidents, a sign of our democracy. And robins. Sure signs of spring. Let’s hope we see some soon!

    All these ‘signs’ might be a good reminder to check all the signs and signage around your campus – gun free, tobacco free zones, easy to read directional signs – both inside and outside. School rules. Other signs to help staff, students, and visitors be on their best behavior, help ensure safety, and find their way when at your school.

    A School Resource Officer (SRO) is a commissioned law enforcement officer in the state of Washington. An SRO is not a district or school employed security person. An SRO is assigned by the employing police department or sheriff's office to work in schools to address crime occurring in or around K-12 schools.  An SRO is deployed in community-oriented policing, but has sworn authority to make arrests. School resource officers focus on keeping students out of the criminal justice system and should not be used for school disciplinary purposes.

    If your school has an SRO, whenever possible, include the officer in staff meetings and in appropriate professional development opportunities. The benefits will be great!

    Capacity Assessments: This kind of assessment is used to identify staff with specific skills (e.g., first aid certification, search and rescue training, counseling and mental health expertise, ability to assist individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs). Equipment and supplies can also be inventoried: equipment and supplies for individuals with disabilities, such as evacuation chairs, sign language interpreters, and technology used for effective communication It’s also good to inventory consumable medical supplies and equipment for use during a shelter-in-place or evacuation situation. Do a Capacity Assessment and built it into your comprehensive safety planning.

  • Retirement & Health Benefits for January 31, 2020

    by David Morrill | Jan 31, 2020
    retirement-health_072315

    “Show me the money!” ~ Jerry Maguire

    The big push has begun as bills will be moving out of their house of origin in order to clear the policy and fiscal deadlines and move toward adoption by the chambers.

    Some bills have yet, if ever, to be scheduled, and are not reported here yet, they may not be dead. Remember that bills dealing with dollars, (think COLA or SEBB), will stay ‘alive’ until SINE DIE as they fall into the ‘necessary to implement the budget’ category. These have been mentioned in previous reports.

    Meanwhile, the need for communication with legislators to help them prioritize is critical.

    Below is a summary of bills that have had some degree of action to date.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    Proposed bills dealing with providing a benefit increase to those members in TRA 1 and PERS 1 plans although introduced will not see any action until the budget talks begin.

    Since the next revenue forecast is due Feb. 19th, further action on these requests consists of working with legislators behind the scenes to remind them of the need. Bills in play include: SB 6165, HB 1390, and SB 5400.

    SB 6662 was introduced on 1/31/20. Providing retirement benefits at earlier ages in the plans 2 and 3 of the public employees’ retirement system, the teachers’ retirement system, and the school employees’ retirement system. Briefly stated, any member who is at least age fifty-five and has completed at least five service credit years and for whom the sum of the number of years of the member’s age and the number of years of the member’s service credit equals eighty-five or more shall be eligible to retire and receive an unreduced retirement allowance. This bill has been referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB) and Other Health Related Proposals

    The SEBB Board held a meeting on 1/27/2020. See the summary at the end of this post.

    HB 2458/ SB 6479 | Concerning optional benefits offered by school districts.

    These bills allow for districts to continue offering some benefits that are not in competition with those offered by SEBB. If SEBB is not providing the benefit, then a jurisdiction should be able to provide it. It was pointed out that these benefits are employee paid. Examples would include VEBA, cancer insurance, auto insurance, etc.

    These bills are scheduled for Executive Action on 2/4 (House Education) and 2/5 (Senate Ways and Means).

    Other Bills

    Previously, SB 6176 incorporating the costs of employee health and retirement benefits into school district contracts for pupil transportation was covered. It had a public hearing on 1/24 where WASA and schools testified as to the unfunded costs associated with it. In addition, the bill is problematic for a number of reasons. Once this door is open, what about contracted food service workers, special education contractor, etc.?

    Subsequent to the hearing, the House brought ESHB 1813, a similar bill out of Rules Committee where it ended last Session and brought it directly to the floor. The House passed this bill 1/30 with a 60–36 vote. Wham! No need for committee hearings, just quick action. It will not move to the Senate for their action.

    Other Bills That May Have Fiscal/HR Impacts for Districts

    HB 2171 | Concerning vested vacation or paid time off upon an employee’s termination. If an employer has an established policy, practice, or agreement to provide paid vacation or paid time off, and an employee is terminated from employment by death, reduction in force, resignation, dismissal, or retirement, any of the employee’s unused vested vacation time or paid time off must be paid to the employee as wages at the employee’s final rate in accordance with the employment policy, practice, or agreement with respect to eligibility and vesting requirements.

    This was passed out of committee on 1/30.

    SHB 2614/ SB 6349 | Concerning paid family and medical leave. This bill is agency request legislation clearing up some areas with the family and medical leave act, laying out penalty process steps and clarifying certain issues.

    HB 2614 passed out of committee on 1/23 and is scheduled before the House Appropriations Committee on 2/3.

    SB 6349 is in second reading in Senate Rules.

    HB 2739 | Adjusting certain requirements of the shared leave program. Provides that state employees seeking shared leave due to illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition are not required to deplete all of their annual and sick leave before receiving shared leave. Allows intermittent and non-consecutive use of shared leave. This bill is scheduled for Executive Session on 1/31.

    HB 2740 | Concerning the employment of individuals who lawfully consume marijuana. This may nor may not affect school districts since all are posted “Drug Free Zones”, but it may be worth a look. This bill is scheduled for Executive Action on 2/4.

    SB 6123 | Allowing state employee leave for organ donation. Requires agencies to allow employees to take paid leave as needed, not exceeding 30 days in a two-year period, for participate in life-giving procedures. This bill is scheduled for Executive Action on 2/5.

    SB 6368 | Concerning sick leave for K–12 employees. Leave provided in this proviso not taken shall accumulate from year to year. Such accumulated time may be taken at any time during the school year may be used for the purpose of payments for unused sick leave in accordance with RCW 28A.400.210.

    SB 6368 has been scheduled for a public hearing before the Senate Education Committee on 2/3. It was previously scheduled for a public hearing, but the committee time was cut short due to extended floor action by the Senate. Two Superintendents had registered to testify ‘Con’ on this bill due to its unfunded costs.

    SEBB Meeting Summary

    The SEBB Board held an all-day meeting, updating the Board and covering a wide range of issues. Read the briefing book with supporting materials.

    This summary is just some highlights broken down by Tab.

    The HCA/SEBB staff took time to thank the Board and staff for the quality work that was done to make the SEBB launch/enrollment so successful. They particularly singled out school districts, ESD’s and educational groups such as WASBO as critical and valued players that were valued keys to aiding in the launch.

    Overall, and based on feedback from the field, the SEBB/HCA will continue to refine the program and make modification on the MySEBB application.

    TAB 4: shows SEBB open enrollment results. Some facts that may be of interest: 1) 98% of eligible employees enrolled or affirmatively waived a medical plan. (143,000); 2% defaulted into UMP Achieve 1 (3,000); 13% waived coverage (19,000) which exceeded SEBB projections of 7%.

    Previous to SEBB and based on 2015 data, enrollment in medical coverage increased 29% (57,812 more covered individuals).

    Maps are shown in the Tab of the top medical carrier by county and by school district. Vision and Dental enrollments by plan are noted as well.

    Enrollment data aside, it was requested by member Cutler that cost to district data be brought to the Board. Member Leonard concurred. Staff indicated data would be hard to get but see Tab 12 below regarding ESD’s.

    TAB 5: A legislative update was given. Of note was that the 2020–2021 funding rate had been lowered from $,.056 to $1,029/employee/month because of the increase in waivers and the increased enrollment in the self-funded UMP plans.

    The numerous proposed bills dealing with eligibility were summarized. SEBB has distributed surveys to districts to get data on the number and categories of those that have qualified, especially substitutes, coaches, and job shares.

    **There is talk of an amendment coming that would allow school districts to terminate coverage for any employee who has not made payment in 60 days.

    TAB 6: HCA/SEBB is beginning the process of planning future benefits. The Board was asked for input. Three areas were mentioned:

    1. restore payroll deduction options,
    2. restore pre-tax deductions, and
    3. improve long-term disability.

    This discussion and generation of ideas will continue with some final resolution and submission to the Governor’s OFM in October/December. Of course, any legislative action could also affect future benefits.

    TABS 7 and 9: Ideas were presented for possible benefit design changes for Dental and Medical. It was pointed out a common concern was members no longer having access to their previous medical carrier based on where they lived. The issue seemed particularly true for those with Primera as their previous carrier. SEBB staff is looking to see if carriers will expand in the future.

    **TAB 8: Optional Benefits: This topic generated a great deal of discussion. Of note, was member Peter Cutler’s pointing out that authority to rule on whether benefits were in conflict with SEBB rests by RCW solely with the SEBB board, NOT staff. He expressed dismay that the Board was ignored. This topic will be carried into the March 5th meeting with more detail given to the Board. The tab also contains results of surveying school district benefits of which there appear to be about 23 different benefit types.

    TAB 10: Eligibility and enrollment policy proposals were presented to the Board for consideration and action. The Board approved both proposals. Staff assured the Board that these had been circulated for comment by stakeholders, and no major reservations were expressed. One policy simply summarized that taking a paid leave would not be deducted from the 630 qualifying hours. The other policy dealt with employees who take leave without pay for maternity leave, for example, and whether their eligibility for SEBB benefits. Examples are given for both policies.

    TAB 12: The Board was given an overview of the legislative mandate to study ESD’s and SEBB enrollment. Of the approximately 3,300 ESD employees, 300 are currently in SEBB and the rest are to belong in 2024.

    The study will include an analysis of:

    • ESD health benefit plans and their costs
    • Health benefit comparisons between ESDs and the SEBB Program
    • Estimated costs of ESD participation in the SEBB Program
    • ESD funding mechanisms

    The report is due December 31, 2020.

    Draft data specifications have already been sent to AESD for review and comments. Data is due February.

    OTHER

    On behalf of WASA and WSSRA, I testified and made three points:

    1. There is a need to report on district costs for implementing SEBB. If staff can gather data for ESD’s why not districts as well?
    2. The issue of optional benefits needs to be revisited. When SEBB staff claim that they are solely authorized to offer health care coverage including all forms they have broadened what the RCW clearly states.
    3. It was pointed out that retirees need guidance on choices they have should they qualify for SEBB benefits.

    Fred Yancey/Mike Moran
    The Nexus Group

  • Thinking About Retirement?

    by David Morrill | Jan 31, 2020

    retirement-health_072315

    Since covering pension/retirement/health insurance issues on behalf of WASA and AWSP, there are a few important points we have learned. This is just a brief summary of selected retirement related topics. However, the importance of advance planning cannot be overstated. These are not issues to put off until the last month of either one’s impending retirement or approaching Medicare eligible age.

    1. The most important resource for planning one’s retirement pension and finding answers to questions is the website for the Dept. of Retirement Systems.
    2. On that page, there is a link to set up on-line account access. Do so.
    3. The next important page is their Nearing Retirement landing page.
    4. The benefit estimator on that page is valuable in calculating one’s eventual monthly retirement benefit. Once you log into your own retirement account, you can view the actual data that is in the DRS system. Using the benefit estimator within their account will pull the actual data for a very accurate estimate of the retirement benefit.
    5. It is worth mentioning most people now retiring from schools are in Plans 3. There are two parts to that retirement: their defined benefit pension amount, and their defined contribution investment account. One’s retirement includes both sources of funding. The contribution account can be turned into a monthly income stream using the TAP annuity. Here’s the calculator for that.
    6. There is also a “Contact Us” link. One can fill out a form with specific questions or make a phone call to talk to someone about your specific situation. DRS is very responsive in both cases.

    One issue affecting school administrators is the loss of two months of service credit. Let me explain:

    When I began as an administrator, I lost two months of service credit. What’s that about?

    If you are a teacher, service credit (years of experience) is calculated from a year that runs from September 1 through September 1. If you are an administrator, service credit runs from July 1 through July 1. So, if you were a teacher and moved into school administration, you ‘lose’ two months of service credit. For example, if you retired from being an administrator after 30 years of service, the Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) would show that you had 29 years, 10 months of service credit. In effect, you have ‘lost’ the two months credit for teaching.

    How can I make up those lost two months?

    There is little likelihood of a legislative fix, but there are some options. One of the first steps in planning for retirement is to estimate your benefit.

    You can input your estimated date of retirement. You should input both July 1 of the year you expect to retire and have the estimator calculate your benefit, and you should input September 1 of the year you expect to retire and see the result. Technically, you have never ‘lost’ the two months as a teacher. They have just become phantoms in the system due to the calendar years for the different positions. You are still entitled to that credit.

    So you have a decision to make. If you forgo collecting your first retirement check until September 1, you will have full service credit. If you choose July 1 as your retirement date, you will lose two months of pension checks. If the difference in the benefit is enough to justify the wait, then you may decide to do so. If not, then choose July 1.

    Plan 2 & 3 teachers and school employees ask: What’s the best retirement month for me?

    DRS has recently updated an article regarding which is the best month to retire with additional information about how a July or September retirement will impact insurance coverage through SEBB and PEBB.

    When it comes to retirement planning, teachers and school employees in Plans 2 and 3 often ask whether it’s better to retire at the end of June (when they stop working) or in September (when their contract ends). Most choose a July 1 retirement date if the last day worked is in June. Why? It all has to do with what’s gained from an earlier start to benefits and COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments) compared with what’s earned from two extra months of service.

    These two scenarios illustrate the differences:

    • July retirement scenario – Let’s say you decide to retire starting in July 2017. In this circumstance, you’ll receive your pension benefits plus your salary for July and August. In addition, your cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will start in July of the following year (July 1, 2018). What you won’t receive is service credit for July and August.
    • September retirement scenario – If you retire starting in September 2017, your COLA won’t go into effect until July 2019. That’s one year and 10 months after your retirement. This is because you must be retired for an entire year before receiving your first COLA payment. And since COLAs only go into effect on July 1, you must wait for the next July 1 in 2019. You’ll earn service credit for July and August, but you’ll delay receiving your COLA (and forego pension payments for July and August).

    So what’s best? The fact is, if you wait until September, the increase in your benefit from the service credit is minimal compared to the increase you’d receive by retiring in July with an earlier COLA and the extra two months of pension payments. This is why most teachers and school employees retire in July if the last day worked is in June.

    If you have any questions about your retirement date or COLAs, please contact DRS.

    Regarding Health Insurance

    • Upon retirement, a person can choose to purchase insurance with the Public Employee Benefit Insurance Board, a state-wide insurance ‘cooperative’. Their customer service number is 1–800–200–1004.
    • If you decide to enroll in a PEBB offering, you have to option to sign on to set up an on-line account. (Recommended)
    • Upon retirement, an individual has 60 days of the school district coverage ending to enroll in a selected plan. If one does not do so, he/she will then forfeit any future option to enroll in any PEBB plan.
    • However, if one has a spouse, for example, whose insurance will continue coverage for you as a retiree, one can defer the PEBB option until such time that one would want/need coverage through the PEBB board. However, those deferring need to request proof of employer coverage to keep on file the longer they are deferred. This must be provided to PEBB upon their request to insure continuous coverage. See the next bullet below.
    • Regarding the deferral process; two important caveats:
      1. If you are covered through the AppleCare insurance option (which is generally free and income-based), the deferral option is not available, and more importantly,
      2. If you want to move from the state exchange coverage or other non-PEBB insurance coverage, you must maintain continuous coverage until the PEBB selection comes into effect. If there is any gap in coverage, the PEBB option is forfeited.
    • Medicare enrollment timelines are tricky and timing is critical to insure adequate coverage and access to Medicare Part B. Research and advance planning are needed here.

    DISCLAIMER: This information not intended to be for official, legal advice on retirement issues. As always, contact DRS or PEBB for a definitive answer/confirmation of your status and situation.

    Important It is always better to call ahead regarding pension information and health insurance questions rather than making a wrong choice and then either trying to undo it or having to live with what may turn out to be a poorer choice.

    The Nexus Group
    Fred Yancey/Mike Moran

  • Health & Retirement Benefits for January 31, 2020

    by David Morrill | Jan 30, 2020
    Fred's summary here. 
  • AWSP News for January 26, 2020

    by Xenia Doualle | Jan 28, 2020



    In this episode of AWSP News, we discuss:

    • our January Advocacy Weekend,
    • our annual Day on the Hill,
    • the changes to our governance structure,
    • AWSP’s third annual Future School Leaders Day,
    • a Networked Community Improvement grant,
    • the 2020 MTSS Fest in Seattle,
    • our “A Matter of Principals” podcast,
    • our survey about the pay gap and your workload,
    • a Seattle Times report on mental health and schools,
    • and our Calm Room video.

    Prefer to read the news? Check out the script.

  • 5 Things You Should Know About AWSP - Winter 2020 Edition

    by David Morrill | Jan 25, 2020

    Hi there. It’s your friendly state principals association reaching out to say hello. Be honest…how many of you just opened this blog post by accident? You might have meant to click on an update about Harry and Meghan and landed here instead. Either way, welcome…we’re glad you’re here. 

    A lot of you know us well already, but some of you are still getting to know us, and for those of you in that camp, you might not even know why you’re getting emails from AWSP*. Either way, let's all start here and check out this list of five things you need to know about AWSP.

    1. We’ve Got Goals

    We’ve got two massive goals in our strategic plan: one focused on equity and one focused on principal sustainability. Basically, we want better outcomes for all kids, we want to serve all our members regardless of location/PD budget/etc, we want to make your jobs more manageable and enjoyable, and we want you to stay at your school longer (because it’s better for kids). Learn more.

     


    2. We Believe In Self-Care & Growth Mindset

    If we’re honest, the past few years have been challenging. We’re in the middle of some pretty massive transitions. We actually have a third goal on our strategic plan, and that’s our own organizational health. We tell you to take care of yourself so you can do your best work taking care of and leading others. For us, it’s about practicing what we preach. We’re improving a ton of technological systems, for our benefit and yours. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that’s exciting.

     


    3. Ch-ch-ch-changes

    We’re changing our governance structure and how we get representation on our board, grade level leadership committees, and advisory councils. By moving to more regional representation across the state and organizing by ESD, we think we can get more voices involved, make it easier to have more local relationships with AWSP representatives, and increase our members’ connections with each other. Learn more.

     


    4. We’re Here to Support You

    We know you’re busy, but that’s exactly why we’re here for you. We have many ways to help support you, and we want ALL of you to take advantage of your member benefits! Our team is ready and waiting. In short, we’ve got you…and you’ve got us.

     


    5. Let Us Count the Ways

    How do we support you? Let us count the ways. We offer Networked Improvement Community (NIC) Grants to support you in tackling a problem of practice with your peers. You might also like our A Matter of Principals podcast. Our YouTube channel can help you through your day with Fact or Fiction videos, AWSP News, great stories highlighting cool programs, and interviews with educational leaders. We also offer you an award-winning Washington Principal magazine, bargaining and contract support, evaluation resources, and more. Working through some relational challenges with a supervisor or colleague? Let us help.

     


    There are tons of ways to reach out, to participate, and to take advantage of your membership. If you don’t know where to get started, just send us an email or give us a call (800–562–6100). If you don’t know us by now, it’s never too late to start, whether you’re a new kid on the street or you’ve been around the block a few times.

    *It’s because, for the vast majority of you, someone really nice is paying your membership dues, likely your district.

  • Retirement & Health Benefit Report for January 24, 2020

    by Xenia Doualle | Jan 24, 2020

    retirement-health_072315

    AND THE BAND PLAYS ON…

    Hearings and any resulting actions moving bills out of committees have begun as both houses move toward the first cut-off date.

    This is only a summary of bills that have had some degree of action to date or have been recently introduced. Last week’s report covered all the bills that been introduced to date.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    SB 6165 | Providing a benefit increase to certain retirees of the public employees’ retirement system plan 1 and the teachers’ retirement system plan 1. It would provide a one-time, 1.5% percent increase to the retirement benefits of retirees in the Public Employees’ Retirement System and the Teachers’ Retirement System Plans 1, up to a maximum of $22 per month.

    This bill was heard in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on 1/15. It was a courtesy hearing on the Governor’s budget proposal. Testimony acknowledged the Governor’s awareness of the need to address Plans 1 members, but the amount was too small to account for the inflation and loss of purchasing power that has occurred since their COLA was removed in 2011.

    The issue of a COLA adjustment for Plans 1 members is still alive. Members have stated their commitment to do something this session. The questions are what and how much?

    HB 1390/SB 5400 are the preferred alternatives. Either would provide a one-time 3 % percent increase to the retirement benefits of retirees in the Public Employees’ Retirement System and the Teachers’ Retirement System Plans 1, up to a maximum of $62.50.

    This issue will remain alive until the very end of Session. School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB) and Other Health Related Proposals.

    The Senate Ways and Means Committee held a public hearing (Jan. 23rd) on a number of SEBB related bills: SB 6479, SB 6189, SB 6290, SB 6296. They were all interrelated and testimony for one applied to the others as well. Representatives from WEA, PSE, WASA, numerous Superintendents and others spoke both ‘Pro’ and ‘Con’.

    It is important to note that this was the first time the members of the whole committee had heard any mention of the costs of SEBB to the districts. (Although a number of individual members mentioned hearing from their districts.) The committee’s previous SEBB briefing at the start of session was all about enrollment numbers. The testimony from the school superintendents was telling. They pointed out that these added benefit costs, just for substitutes and coaches, and then the required waiver payments meant fewer dollars for hiring instructional staff or purchasing instructional materials. These excess dollars came out cash reserves and levy monies.

    They all sought legislative action/relief. See testimony summaries below.

    HB 2458/ SB 6479 | Concerning optional benefits offered by school districts. This bill allows for districts to continue offering some benefits that are not in competition with those offered by SEBB. If SEBB is not providing the benefit, then a jurisdiction should be able to provide it. It was pointed out that these benefits are employee paid. Examples would include VEBA, cancer insurance, auto insurance, etc. WSSDA pointed out that the bill could be amended to allow districts to charge a small administrative fee, and add a caveat that there was no contractual obligation on the district’s part connected to the benefit.

    SSB 6189 | Clarifying eligibility for school employees’ benefits board coverage. A substitute bill was submitted earlier in the day that changed the original proposal. Here is a link to the changed bill report.

    Briefly summarized, the substitute bill calls for an OSPI/Health Care Authority study of the issue of districts’ uses and costs of substitutes and extracurricular staffing and include recommendations for funding. A preliminary report summarizing the 2018–19 and 2019–20 data is due to the fiscal committees of the Legislature by December 15, 2020. The final report that includes data from the 2020–21 school year and recommendations from the workgroup is due to the fiscal committees of the Legislature by December 15, 2021. WASA testified that the scheduled was too elongated, and that at a minimum deadlines should be moved up a year.

    Dual coverage would not be allowed in the future. Eligible retirees who are receiving Medicare benefits on the date that they return to work, are ineligible for benefits under the SEB Board. However, if these retired school employees would otherwise be eligible for SEB, the school district must provide the employee with a stipend in addition to all other regular compensation equal to the additional cost the employee would pay for premiums receiving insurance through PEBB.

    Testimony was appreciative that this issue was evolving. WASA appreciated the fact that the conversation continues, but still had concerns. Eatonville School District pays $150,000 extra to cover benefit costs just for subs. Toledo School District pays $35,000/month in excess costs ($427,000 year). Their costs went from $71,736/month to $107,350/month for benefits. West Valley School District pointed out that the benefit cost for 5 subs would cover the costs for hiring one teacher. Their costs were $400,000 This district’s 55 waivers, cost an additional $667,000. Reardon School District excess benefit costs were $29,000/month. Medical Lake School District had 48 waivers (20% of staff) costing $570,000/monthly. Lake Washington School District has 600 subs and there is a $3.7 million dollar gap between what the state pays and what the district pays. Plus, it was pointed out and suggested that the SEBB program, through what ever bill moves, allows districts to drop coverage for any employee who has not paid his/her premium share for 60 days. Furthermore, what about summers, when an employee is not paid. Is a district to become a collection agency?

    SEBB/HCA pointed out in testimony that the bill needs some refinement. It should be clear that retirees could choose coverage as proposed in the original bill and defer their PEBB enrollment until their SEBB coverage ended. This present process causes confusion. Also, there is no recognition in the bill that ESD’s and charter schools need are included in SEBB.

    SB 6290 | Concerning contributions to and eligibility for school employee benefit plans. Eliminates the requirements that school employers make contributions for employee health care when the employee has waived coverage. Makes substitute employees and coaches ineligible for benefits under the School Employees’ Benefits Board.

    The fiscal note is worth reading.

    The current rates for coverage are socialized state-wide and waivers are calculated into the rate structure. If you spread the rate over a smaller number, the costs would increase. If waivers were not paid, projected rates would increase around $152/month. (It was suggested in an earlier panel, that a fairer way in lieu of paying for those that waive would be to raise the rate for all.) There are currently 19,000+ waivers.

    Although WEA was opposed, it acknowledged that there is a need for proper funding. It was pointed out that if waivers were not paid by a district, those with low numbers of waivers would probably be paying the same. Those with high number of waivers would pay less and those with an average number would pay more.

    Reardon School District pointed out that a coach earning $5,000 could easily qualify for $12,000 in benefits. One district pointed out that they have directed their coaches to keep time sheets and not exceed 630 hours.

    SEBB/HCA expressed some frustration in that the issue of rates and waivers is very complex and not easily summed up in 2 minutes. But briefly stated; If ‘x’ plus ‘y’= $2 billion dollars (as an example), a change in ‘x’ (like waivers’) will means ‘y’ increases in order to still hit the $2 billion mark. Also, it was noted that waivers apply to medical, but many persons are still enrolled the vision, dental, life and long-term disability.

    As an aside, and in response to a question; there are 148,000 employees covered, 350,000 covered lives, and 290,000 on medical.

    SB 6296 | Concerning health care benefits for public school employees. Beginning September 1, 2020, a teacher employee in a job sharing position who is anticipated to work at least six hundred thirty hours is benefits eligible and will receive a prorated portion of the full-time employer contribution that is consistent with the district’s job sharing plan under RCW 28A.405.070 35.

    WEA was opposed to this change as it opens the door to prorating other positions. It was also pointed out that other district jobs that met the 630-hour threshold would receive full benefits, so why single out teachers?

    Other bills:

    SB 6176 : Incorporating the costs of employee health benefits into school district contracts for pupil transportation. A school district may only enter into a pupil transportation services contract with a nongovernmental entity that provides the following to its employees:

    • (a) An employer health benefits contribution equal to the monthly school employer funding rate for the state health benefits program for school employees, less the retiree remittance for the public employees’ benefits board; and
    • (b) An amount equivalent to the plans 2 and 3 normal cost employer contribution rate of the school employees’ retirement system, multiplied by the estimated salaries of the employees of the private nongovernmental entity.

    This bill is scheduled for a public hearing on 1/24 before the Senate Education Committee. WASA will be testifying “Con”. This bill is problematic for a number of reasons; added cost to districts for example. Furthermore, once this door is open, what about contracted food service workers?

    Other Bills that may have fiscal/HR impacts for districts

    HB 2171 | Concerning vested vacation or paid time off upon an employee’s termination. If an employer has an established policy, practice, or agreement to provide paid vacation or paid time off, and an employee is terminated from employment by death, reduction in force, resignation, dismissal, or retirement, any of the employee’s unused vested vacation time or paid time off must be paid to the employee as wages at the employee’s final rate in accordance with the employment policy, practice, or agreement with respect to eligibility and vesting requirements.

    No action was taken in Executive Session on Jan 23rd.

    HB 2304 | Concerning shared leave and industrial insurance benefits. The requirement that an employee diligently pursue and be found ineligible for industrial insurance wage replacement benefits is removed. An employee receiving wage replacement benefits may not receive more than their base salary as a result of receiving shared leave. This bill was passed out of committee on January 16th and has been scheduled for a public hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on 1/27.

    HB 2614/ SB 6349 | Concerning paid family and medical leave. This bill is agency request legislation clearing up some areas with the family and medical leave act, laying out penalty process steps and clarifying certain issues.

    HB 2614 passed out of committee on 1/23.

    HB 2740 | Concerning the employment of individuals who lawfully consume marijuana. This may nor may not affect school districts since all are posted “Drug Free Zones”, but it may be worth a look.

    Check out the bill report. This bill will have a public hearing on 1/28 and is scheduled for Executive Action on 1/30.

    SB 6242 | Adjusting school directors’ compensation. For a district with a total student enrollment of twenty thousand or more students, the daily amount of the compensation must be established by the board, but the annual compensation may not exceed the annual salary for a legislator under RCW 43.03.013.

    This bill is scheduled for a public hearing on 1/24 before the Senate Education Committee.

    SB 6368/ HB 2685 | Concerning sick leave for K–12 employees. Leave provided in this proviso not taken shall accumulate from year to year. Such accumulated time may be taken at any time during the school year may be used for the purpose of payments for unused sick leave in accordance with RCW 28A.400.210.

    SB 6368 has been scheduled for a public hearing before the Senate Education Committee on 1/29.

    Fred Yancey/ Mike Moran
    The Nexus Group

  • Retirement & Health Benefit Report for January 17, 2020

    by Xenia Doualle | Jan 17, 2020

    retirement-health_072315

    “Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end; then stop.” ~ Lewis Carroll

    In the beginning, there were close to 300 bills pre-filed even before the Legislature convened. And then, once started, new bills continue to be introduced. Included among those are a number of bills affecting pensions, health, and job benefits.

    Hearings and any resulting action moving bills out of committees have begun as both houses move toward the first cut-off date.

    This is a brief summary of bills of interest including bills that were introduced but may have no action last session. These bills could still be brought forward.

    Retirement Related Proposals

    SB 6165/ HB 2325 | Provides a one-time, 1.5 percent increase to the retirement benefits of retirees in the Public Employees’ Retirement System and the Teachers’ Retirement System Plans 1, up to a maximum of $22 per month. This bill was the Governor’s request and had a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Jan. 15th. Cities and Counties opposed the bill given the cost. Other groups/associations testified that this was not enough to offset the losses Plan 1 retirees have had since the COLA was removed in 2010. They instead asked the committee to support SB 5400 which the Select Committee on Pension Policy again approved and forwarded to the Legislature for action.

    SB 5400/ HB 1390 | Provides a 3% cost of living adjustment (COLA) to TRS1 and PERS1 members up to maximum of $62.50 per month for the first $25,000 of pension. These bills are Select Committee for Pension Policy (SCPP) agency request legislation.

    SB 5400 is in Ways and Means awaiting scheduling. HB 1390 is in House Rules awaiting scheduling.

    HB 1132/ SB 5178 | Revises provisions of the teachers’ retirement system and the school employees’ retirement system plans 2 and 3 regarding early retirement options for members of those plans and allows early retirement with no reduction at age 60. Neither bill had a hearing last session but are still before their respective fiscal committees.

    SB 5414/ HB 1409 | Changes the amount of annual leave that may be accumulated by a part-time employee who is under contract with a school district. Currently, upon retirement, an individual can cash in his/her accumulated sick leave at a 1:4 ratio using a maximum of 180 days. This change would increase the maximum to 260 days reflecting the longer contract years many school employees, especially administrators work. Neither bill had a hearing last session but are still available for action.

    School Employee Benefit Board (SEEB) and Other Health Related Proposals

    Overview: The SEEB program has been launched. Full data has yet to be furnished on the program, but a few points are known particularly after talking with fiscal staff:

    1. The Governor’s budget projected a $37.2 million dollar savings from earlier projected expenditures in SEBB. It is anticipated that the savings will be even greater once all enrollment and follow-up issues are completed. In fact, it was suggested savings may be in excess of $400 million. (Earlier estimates had put the projected cost of SEBB at $898 million.)
    2. Some of the reasons for the savings are that the Health Care Authority (HCA) assumed 7% of potential enrollees would waive coverage. Close to 14% to date have waived. These persons statewide likely have spouses with existing coverage already, or are on Medicaid, or Tricare. In short, fewer persons (40,000) enrolled in medical than projected. Also, it appears fewer dependents have been enrolled. More data to follow.

    The staff member made the statement that the overall cost for this program for many districts and the state will be much less expensive that what districts and the state have paid in the past.

    Regarding waivers: The HCA has repeatedly stated that even though an individual may waive coverage, a district must still pay for their insurances. The staffer made the point, that this was misleading because waiving coverage affects the pool by making the premium costs smaller, so the net effect is cheaper costs to the district on a statewide basis.

    HB 2458/ SB 6479 | Concerning optional benefits offered by school districts. This bill allows for districts to continue offering some benefits that are not in conflict with those offered by SEBB. Examples would include VEBA, auto insurance, etc. The bill text points out some others. An interesting section of the bill does however, state, “Each full-time employee, regardless of the number of dependents receiving basic coverage, receives the same additional employer contribution for other coverage or optional benefits…” (This author’s experience has been that administrators often got extra benefits with district contributions than other employees. This apparently can no longer occur.)

    HB 2458 is scheduled for a public hearing on January 20th.

    SB 6176 | Incorporating the costs of employee health benefits into school district contracts for pupil transportation. A school district may only enter into a pupil transportation services contract with a nongovernmental entity that provides the following to its employees: (a) An employer health benefits contribution equal to the monthly school employer funding rate for the state health benefits program for school employees, less the retiree remittance for the public employees’ benefits board; and (b) An amount equivalent to the plans 2 and 3 normal cost employer contribution rate of the school employees’ retirement system, multiplied by the estimated salaries of the employees of the private nongovernmental entity. This bill is scheduled for a public hearing on 1/24 before the Senate Education Committee.

    This bill is problematic for a number of reasons; added cost to districts for example. Furthermore, once this door is open, what about contracted food service workers? Others?

    SB 6189 | Clarifying eligibility for school employees’ benefits board coverage. Retirees receiving insurance through PEBB, substitutes, and employees who are covered as a dependent by someone already receiving PEBB or SEBB insurance are not eligible for SEBB coverage. However, it is important to note that someone receiving Medicare can not be denied such coverage. This bill has not been scheduled for a hearing as of yet.

    SB 6290 | Concerning contributions to and eligibility for school employee benefit plans. For school employee benefits beginning July 1, 2021, for the 2021–22 school year, contributions to the authority are not required for individuals (eligible for benefits under RCW32 41.05.740(6)(e)) who waive their coverage. Substitute employees and coaches are not eligible for benefits beginning with the 2021–22 school year through the school employees’ benefits board. A public hearing is scheduled before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on 1/23.

    SB 6296 | Concerning health care benefits for public school employees. Beginning September 1, 2020, an employee in a job sharing position who is anticipated to work at least six hundred thirty hours is benefits eligible and will receive a prorated portion of the full-time employer contribution that is consistent with the district’s job sharing plan under RCW 28A.405.070 35. A public hearing is scheduled before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on 1/23.

    Other Bills that may have fiscal/HR impacts for districts

    HB 2171 | Concerning vested vacation or paid time off upon an employee’s termination. If an employer has an established policy, practice, or agreement to provide paid vacation or paid time off, and an employee is terminated from employment by death, reduction in force, resignation, dismissal, or retirement, any of the employee’s unused vested vacation time or paid time off must be paid to the employee as wages at the employee’s final rate in accordance with the employment policy, practice, or agreement with respect to eligibility and vesting requirements.

    This bill was heard on Jan 20th and is scheduled for Executive Action on Jan. 20th.

    HB 2304 | Concerning shared leave and industrial insurance benefits. The requirement that an employee diligently pursue and be found ineligible for industrial insurance wage replacement benefits is removed. An employee receiving wage replacement benefits may not receive more than their base salary as a result of receiving shared leave.

    This bill was passed out of committee on January 16th.

    HB 2614/ SB 6349 | Concerning paid family and medical leave. This bill is agency request legislation clearing up some areas with the family and medical leave act, laying out penalty process steps and clarifying certain issues.

    Both bills are scheduled for public hearings on 1/20 before their respective labor committees. HB 2614 is scheduled for Executive Session on 1/23.

    SB 5473/ HB 1445 | Making unemployment benefits accessible to persons with family responsibilities and other availability issues and making clarifying changes. Briefly, the term ‘good cause’ is modified to include that the separation from work was necessary because care for a child or vulnerable adult in the claimant’s care is inaccessible. Therefore, an individual may be entitled to unemployment benefits.

    SB 5743 had a public hearing on 1/16.

    SB 6242 | Adjusting school directors’ compensation. For a district with a total student enrollment of twenty thousand or more students, the daily amount of the compensation must be established by the board, but the annual compensation may not exceed the annual salary for a legislator under RCW 43.03.013.

    This bill is scheduled for a public hearing on 1/24 before the Senate Education Committee.

    SB 6368/ HB 2685 | Concerning sick leave for K–12 employees. Leave provided in this proviso not taken shall accumulate from year to year. Such accumulated time may be taken at any time during the school year may be used for the purpose of payments for unused sick leave in accordance with RCW 28A.400.210.

    No hearings have been scheduled to date.

    And finally, SB 6320 | Concerning the ability of a minor to operate a lemonade business on an occasional basis. This will not subject you to charges of child slavery when parking your child on the curb during vacations as a fundraiser.

    Fred Yancey/ Mike Moran
    The Nexus Group

  • Ridgeview Elementary's Calm Room

    by Xenia Doualle | Jan 16, 2020




    As part of a PBIS initiative, Ridgeview Elementary in the Yakima School District created a space called the "Calm Room" to help students with social-emotional learning. The Calm Room is a place where students and staff members can come and relax when needed.
    Watch Ridgeview's efforts to involve the whole community in this effort.