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Meetings spur progress on Fulton pension board changes
by Everett Catts
February 02, 2013 02:36 PM | 7070 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Representatives of both sides in a disagreement over the proposed new structure of the Fulton County Schools employee pension board said meetings between the two groups this week have brought progress in the retired educators’ mission to keep checks and balances on the board.

Dawna Godfrey, a retired elementary school teacher and president of the North Fulton Retired Educators Association, and Mary Lee, a retired school psychologist who also worked as a school administrator and coordinator, each met Monday with District 50 State Rep. Lynne Riley, R-Johns Creek. Riley has a draft bill based on the resolution the school board approved at its last meeting Jan. 17. The resolution called for changes in the structure of the pension board, including making the two retirees on the board appointed by the school board and not elected by the retirees who participate in the pension fund, as they currently are.

Lee referred all questions to Godfrey, who said she was pleased with the results of that meeting.

“It went very well. We had two members from the North Fulton Retired Educators and two members from the South Fulton Retired Educators Association and a person from the pension board,” said Godfrey, who would not identify the other people attending the meeting.

According to Godfrey, Riley explained the legislative process each bill must go through. Riley did not return phone and email messages to her office seeking comment on the meeting and the bill.

School board president Linda Schultz, who with fellow school board member Linda McCain also sits on the pension board, said she was happy with the strides both sides made in two other meetings regarding retirees, which Schultz attended.

The first was Wednesday’s pension board meeting at the district’s professional learning center in East Point.

“Part of that was to discuss if the pension board, in response to the school system’s request for the school board, [could] send out a letter to retirees about the changes to the pension board,” Schultz said. “At that meeting, the pension board did vote it would send our letter out [Monday] on behalf of the school board. There will be a disclaimer saying the school [district] will pay for it. The rest of the meeting was just discussion.”

The following day, Godfrey and five other North Fulton Retired Educators Association members met with Schultz, McCain and fellow school board member Julia Bernath, plus Superintendent Robert Avossa at the Peachtree Diner in Roswell.

“It opened up the dialogue and it gave us assurances that they have agreed to reword the bill and make some compromises,” Godfrey said.

Of the meetings, Schultz added, “It’s part of a process. It’s nice to sit down face to face and dispel any misunderstandings and make sure concerns are addressed.”

During the meetings, Godfrey said retirees were given assurances regarding the pension board and fund and Schultz confirmed them. They are:

o The pension fund would not be commingled with the district’s general fund.

o The retirees on the pension board will be elected and not appointed, as the original resolution and draft bill were written.

o There will now be five elected current and retired district employees represented on the new revised pension board (currently there are four).

Schultz said the draft bill would be rewritten to include those changes, and the school board would not have to re-approve a new resolution before the bill is rewritten. She added she hopes future pension board meetings will be broadcast, with the video posted to the district’s website, as school board meetings are currently. Schultz also said she wants the pension board website to include more information on how the pension fund is invested.

“We believe in transparency,” she said.

The South Fulton Retired Educators Association will meet Thursday at 2 p.m. at Piccadilly Cafeteria on Godby Road in College Park. The North Fulton Retired Educators Association is invited to the meeting, Godfrey said. Schultz said she will attend the meeting and plans to speak with the south Fulton retirees since she had to leave last week’s pension board meeting immediately afterward due to severe storms.

The North Fulton retired educators group also will meet Feb. 20 at 10 a.m. at the Roswell Adult Recreation Center, 830 Grimes Bridge Road. Schultz will be at the meeting. Any Fulton district retired educator is invited to attend, Godfrey said. She added she expects “better communication between the pension board and the school board” in the future.

“If the problem has been communication, maybe things will be better,” Godfrey said. “There’s still a lot of frustration between the pension board and the school board.”

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