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Ask Elsie- December 6, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTEAsk Elsie is a column where Chief Financial Officer Elsie Schiro tackles employee queries, or in areas outside her purview, asks other District leaders to answer them.

Dear Elsie,

I wanted to ask you about the dental insurance. When I got the Humana Advantage, nowhere did it say it was an HMO plan. I called Benefits and was told it was a PPO plan. I scheduled dentist appointments for my children and no one takes it for pediatric patients. I am having a hard time finding a dentist that takes that insurance. I wanted to cancel the plan since it does no good for what I need but Benefits will not cancel it, so now I am having pay $64 per month for insurance that I do not want. Is there any way you can help me get this insurance plan removed from my paycheck?

Sincerely,

Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

Thank you for your question. I reached out to Max Ates, senior officer of payroll, benefits and risk management, and here’s the response: “The Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) strives to provide as many benefits to the employees as possible. FWISD must remain in compliance with the Internal Revenue Code Section 125. Therefore, you cannot drop or change your current dental insurance coverage until the next open enrollment period, unless you experience a qualifying special enrollment event. An employee cannot elect to drop coverage retroactively; a future cancellation date is required. Likewise, an employee cannot elect to add or change coverage without experiencing a change in family status (such as: marriage; divorce; a child is born, adopted, or is placed with the employee for adoption; a child marries or reaches age 26; a court orders the employee to provide health coverage for a child; involuntarily loses other health insurance coverage; or an eligible dependent involuntarily loses other health insurance coverage).”

Thank you for your question, Frustrated, and thank you Mr. Ates for your response.

Elsie

Dear Elsie

My question is why does the District not upgrade and modernize their very aging portable classroom systems? Some schools have had portable classrooms for over 50 years. I know of several that received portables the year they opened, showing the lack of foresight that District planners had back then. I have taught in portables that have poor electrical, heating and air conditioning, and their roofs leak. Many need new paint jobs, and most, the interiors are dirty stained carpets, and collapsing panel walls. Does the District even have a plan to upgrade and modernize these? Ramtech, the company that makes many of our portables, which by the way builds them right here in north Texas, has many modern options with multiple classrooms (some with up to 24 classrooms) with bathrooms, offices, large center halls as well as modernized for central heat and air, digital hookups, bells/intercoms and offices. The portables at our school looks crazy with literally hundreds of wires, power and digital, strung between them. So, to reiterate, does the District plan on modernizing and replacing these at all, or actually creating new classrooms in existing schools, or are we going to continue with our aging portables for the next 50 years?

Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your question. I reached out to Art Cavazos, chief of District operations, and here’s the response: “The portable building inventory provides our schools the flexibility to meet both programming and space needs as our individual schools experience fluctuating enrollment. The District’s long-term goal would be to bring all students back into the buildings. Portables that are in poor condition are occasionally decommissioned and removed from service. Rarely are new temporary buildings purchased as it is preferable to build additional permanent instructional space. New classroom wings at many schools have already occurred with our 1999, 2001, 2007, and 2013 bond programs. The District undertook the creation of a facilities master plan in 2016. Through this plan, we will address the long- term needs of our facilities. We have started on the implementation of the first phase of this facilities plan at our high school campuses. The 2017 bond includes over $580 million directed at improving our current high school facilities. As this work progresses, we are working on identifying the needs for our middle and elementary schools, which we hope will be funded with upcoming bonds.”

Thanks again for your question Anonymous and thank you Mr. Cavazos for response.

Elsie

Dear Elsie,

My question is about breakfast in the classroom. I have tried to address this on my own, but no one knows whom is in charge of this program.

I was never a fan of it to begin with - for example - food all over the floor, spills that make the floor sticky, kids that want to save food for later and then forget about it etcetera, and I teach fourth grade - I cannot imagine what a lower grade classroom is like!

However, now with school starting at 7:50 a.m., the kids are only given 10 minutes to eat (they are allowed into our rooms at 7:40) yet many of them are here earlier and have to wait in the cafeteria until the 7:40 bell. Why can they not just eat in the cafeteria? It seems that this would solve a ton of problems and many more that I didn't even mention above - milk that is not drank has to be disposed of on that day (no matter the expiration date, because if it has been un-refrigerated it cannot be put back in), the amount of plastic baggies being used to bundle the milk and juice (because they have to be served in bundles - kids can't just take what they want - it's a package deal. So, my kids are throwing away GOOD food and they are learning that this is okay! I could go on about more problems than benefits with eating breakfast in our classroom, but hopefully you get the point.

Sharon Pate

Dear Ms. Pate,

Thank you for your question. I reached out Art Cavazos, chief of District operations, and here’s the response: “Thank you for sharing your concerns.

Breakfast in the classroom was designed to help improve breakfast participation while minimizing classroom interruption. The program helped improve participation. Today, over 65,000 students receive a breakfast to start the school day. Prior to this only 23,000 students received breakfast. Serving breakfast to students helps improve their comprehension, alertness, and learning. Concerns with discarded foods are valid, much of this is required by the USDA guidelines. We will continue to look at ways to improve our service.”

Thanks again for your question, Ms. Pate and thank you Mr. Cavazos for response.

Elsie

Direct your questions to Inside@fwisd.org and put the words "Ask Elsie" in the subject line. Please close your letter with your preferred signature as you wish it to appear in the column. When there are multiple queries on the same subject, we will select the one that is most representative of the subject. We will try to answer as many questions as possible.

Please bear with us as we have a backlog of Ask Elsie questions and are responding to questions as soon as we can.