In this week’s article, I would like to take time to cover two specific topics with recent activity. One is a recognition program that recently occurred. The other is a fairly significant benefit change that is unfolding for district employees! Both are issues that are good for members of the school community to know!
On Wednesday night, we had the privilege of recognizing four ROCORI staff members at the Educational Support Staff of Excellence program at the Holiday Inn in St. Cloud. Mary Ann Hennen, Bruce Weber, Julie Stein, and Blanca Garcia-Guzman were honored as ROCORI representatives for the event. The program was hosted by Resource Training and Solutions on behalf of the regional schools making up the cooperative.
The second annual Educational Support Staff of Excellence program was initiated at the urging of St. Cloud area school districts as a means of formally honoring the work of the many people needed to make schools function effectively. The awards are intended to recognize any staff members, based on decision-making processes within each school district, who do not hold teaching licenses but in some fashion still help fulfill the mission of our schools.
Mary Ann Hennen was selected to represent the food service staff. Bruce Weber was chosen from among our custodial, maintenance, and grounds-keeping staff. Julie Stein represented the clerical and office staff across the district. Blanca Garcia-Guzman was selected from the paraprofessional employees.
As the award program was developed, a set of criteria was developed to help districts determine how to identify and select candidates. High standards of performance, quality character and expectations, good stewardship, and making a difference for students on a regular basis are key elements making up the qualities of nominees for this recognition. It was my privilege to serve on the committee that helped develop the awards program and to serve as the presiding superintendent for the awards program last Wednesday evening!
Congratulations to the ROCORI recipients.
Over the past several months, the ROCORI School District has been examining the prospect of a potential change of health insurance provider for district employees. The issue started as an element of discussion during the budget development process, but has continued as an issue of good stewardship and practical efficiency.
For a long period of time, the district has been a member of the Resource Training and Solutions cooperative insurance health insurance pool. Insurance has been purchased through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota as a member of the cooperative pool.
Because of some changes in use patterns that have occurred over the last several years, the School District’s insurance Agent of Record, Paul Pederson, approached us last winter to indicate that he thought the timing might be right for the district to consider seeking bids for other insurance providers. His idea was based on changing patterns in ROCORI’s premium to claim ratio and the patterns of use of insurance.
During the spring, the patterns of use continued to be monitored and Paul helped the district develop bid packages to solicit proposals for potential insurance carriers. Although there was considerable interest demonstrated, in the end, there was one significant proposal from Health Partners along with the renewal bid from BCBS.
The competition allowed ROCORI to receive very competitive pricing. BCBS came in with a bid showing no increase for the next school year with its renewal. Health Partners, in its initial bid, came in with a proposal offering a 13% reduction in premium. As discussion took place, the district wanted to be sure that the proposals were competitive with each other in the “longer term” as well as in the one-year comparison, so both companies were asked to provide a best offer for the second year in order to compare some trends and patterns. In addition, if the district pursues the bid from Health Partners, there needs to be some kind of assurance in the second year because it would not be able to return to the BCBS pool for at least two full years.
After much review, discussion and interjection, the proposals from BCBS and Health Partners became more firm and final in nature. As the numbers became more clear, it was apparent that the best overall offer came from Health Partners. The information from Health Partners indicates that the policies are very comparable, if not improvements in many areas (affirmed by Agent of Record Pederson), and the premium reductions should save the district (and employees in combination) around $200,000 in value.
As all of the information was considered, the school board determined that the Health Partners proposal offered he best solution for the district and voted to make the change from BCBS to Health Partners. The change, for all district employees covered with insurance plans, will take place on October 1.