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Ohio School Plan Newsletter: Fall 2012

 

 

OSP Best Practices Award
By Travis Thompson / OSP Risk Management Representative

The 2012 OSP Best Practices Award recipient is Licking Valley Local School District.

The Ohio School Plan Best Practice Award was created to recognize an Ohio School Plan (OSP) member who best demonstrates proactive risk management.  To qualify for the award, members must possess a functional safety committee accountable for the completion of corrective actions derived from results of scheduled internal inspections, regulatory inspections and incident investigations.

Members are nominated by OSP Risk Managers familiar with the districts' operations. Licking Valley Local School District was nominated for their improvement following a 2009 OSP Risk Management visit. As a result of the visit, a new comprehensive inspection process using checklists was created and implemented by the building custodians in order to identify and correct problem areas.  All inspection results are reviewed by the maintenance supervisor and presented to the district safety committee consisting of the building principals and other board of education administrators to develop a plan of action and ensure a safe educational environment.  

A 2012 OSP Risk Management inspection yielded zero recommendations, demonstrating Licking Valley Local School District's commitment to loss prevention and prompting the nomination. Their efforts were recognized during a recent board meeting where the district was presented with a plaque and a $1,000 award.

(Pictured from left to right:  Travis Thompson, OSP Risk Manager;  Jackie Caughenbaugh , Board Member; Mary Kay Martin, Board Vice President; Lydia Miller, Board President; Gregg McMunn, OSP Representative)

 

Click here to print the Fall 2012 Ohio School Plan Newsletter


Returning Military Veterans and their Reemployment Rights
By Cheryl F. Wolff / Spengler Nathanson, P.L.L.

All employers should be aware of their obligations under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) to military veterans seeking return to their previous jobs. 

In addition to prohibiting employers from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of their membership in or obligation for service in the Armed Forces or National Guard, USERRA grants service members specific employment rights upon their return to civilian life.

The service member must timely apply for reemployment to the employer he or she left for military service - within 90 days after completion of service of more than 180 days, and within 14 days if the service was for 31 to 180 days. An employer generally must reemploy the veteran who timely applies, with a few exceptions.

There is no obligation to reemploy an individual who left the employer for military service that lasted more than five years, or an individual whose military discharge was other than honorable. There are a number of exceptions to the five-year rule, so care should be taken before applying it to reject a service member seeking reemployment.

Reemployment is also not required if the employment position vacated by the employee was for a brief, non-recurrent period and there was no reasonable expectation that the employment would continue indefinitely or for a significant period of time.

Nor is reemployment required if circumstances have so changed that reemployment would be impossible or unreasonable (for example, if this employee would have been included in a reduction in force). Department of Labor regulations specify, however, that the required termination of a replacement employee does not make reemployment impossible or unreasonable.

When must reemployment be offered?  USERRA says "promptly," meaning as soon as practicable under the circumstances of each case. The Department of Labor says this will usually be within two weeks of the veteran's application for reemployment.

To what position should the veteran be returned?  USERRA requires reemployment in the position he or she would have attained with reasonable certainty if not for the absence for military service, including the seniority, status, and pay the service member would ordinarily have attained given the job's history. This is dubbed the "escalator principle," meaning veterans do not simply return to where they left off, but to where they most likely would be had they never left for military service.

If an opportunity for promotion the employee missed during service is based on a skills test or other examination, then the employer should give the returning employee a reasonable amount of time to adjust to the position (given the length of absence, the test’s difficulty, and the typical time needed to prepare for the test) and then give the skills test or examination. If the employee passes and there is a reasonable certainty the employee would have been promoted during the time the employee was in service, then the promotion must be made effective as of the date it would have occurred had employment not been interrupted by military service.

Employers are expected to make reasonable efforts to help returning veterans become qualified to perform the duties of the escalator position, or if that is not possible, to its nearest approximation. If the employee is not qualified to perform the duties of the escalator position or its nearest approximation, the employee should be restored to his or her pre-service position or its nearest approximation.

Employers may also owe additional accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act to returning service members who incurred a disability in the course of military service. Such individuals are also allowed additional time under USERRA to apply for reemployment, up to two years and sometimes longer.

The reemployed veteran is entitled to the seniority-based rights he or she had when military service began, plus any such rights that would have been attained had the employee remained continuously employed. A seniority-based right is one that accrues with or is determined by longevity in employment.  It is a reward for length of service rather than a form of short-term compensation for work performed. For example, an employee on a lengthy military leave generally will not accrue paid vacation during the leave (unless employees on comparable-length nonmilitary leaves do so), but will generally be entitled to count the military leave time to determine the rate of vacation accrual when back on the job. Determining what rights are seniority-based is one of the trickiest parts of applying USERRA.

Finally, USERRA prohibits an employer from discharging a reemployed military veteran except “for cause” for one year after reemployment if the employee’s military service was for more than 180 days, and for 180 days after reemployment if the employee’s military service was for more than 30 and less than 181 days. For this purpose, "for cause" includes not only employee misconduct but also other legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons like position elimination, according to USERRA regulations.

Ohio's public employers should also be aware of their obligations under state law to pay certain employees while they are on military leave. Ohio Revised Code Section 5923.05 provides that permanent public employees are entitled to leaves of absence for service in the Armed Forces and National Guard "without loss of pay" "for periods of up to one month, for each calendar year in which they are performing service."

For service longer than a month due to a Presidential executive order or act of Congress, that law directs that permanent public employees in Ohio be paid the difference between their military pay and their regular pay if their regular pay exceeds their military pay, up to a maximum of $500 each month. This law has been frequently amended and should be carefully reviewed to determine the public employer’s pay obligation.

With the anticipated continuing drawdown of troops from overseas, employers need to be familiar with their many requirements under these laws.

 

Click here to print the Fall 2012 Ohio School Plan Newsletter


Coverage for Booster/Parent Organizations
By Becky Swisher, OSP Program Manager

Booster Groups and Parent Organizations are an important component to the educational environment. They are comprised of parents, community members, and staff members coming together for the purpose of supporting specific school activities for the benefit of students. They are an important means of connecting parents and other community members with the curricular and extra-curricular activities of students.

However, booster groups and parent organizations are separate from the school districts with which they are associated and not governed by the boards of education. These groups are legally organized and recognized as federal tax-exempt charities under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS tax code for raising tax-deductible donations to support schools and school programs.

Typically these groups have a board of directors that oversees the organization’s operations, raises funds, coordinates events and, depending on the size, may also own or acquire property in the name of the organization. While the members of these organizations are volunteers, each individual, as well as the organization, has potential risk and should take steps to avoid, limit, transfer and protect against such risks.

There are four coverages non-profit organizations typically carry:

  • General Liability – to cover accidents and injuries to third party individuals;
  • Surety Bonding – to cover loss of funds of the organization to embezzlement and the like;
  • Directors & Officers Liability – to cover personal liability of the board’s officers and directors for their legal responsibility serving the organization; and
  • Property (if, applicable) – to cover loss of property/assets of the organization, such as damage to facilities owned and rented, equipment and property/inventory related to fundraising programs.

With the exposure and potential risk of a booster group or a parent organization, the question most often asked is: How are booster groups and parent organizations covered under the district’s insurance policy?

The answer for Ohio School Plan members is that the Educational Package Policy extends General Liability coverage to booster groups and parent organizations that are listed on the policy as Adult Support Groups.  The Ohio School Plan’s General Liability covers damages because of bodily injury, property damage, personal and advertising injury and sexual abuse injury to third parties.

With this inclusion, it is important for the member to have knowledge of what activities the booster groups are involved in as it may impact and even jeopardize the policy as an asset of the district. It is recommended that the district establish what types of activities are generally acceptable and ask to be notified of activities outside such parameters. Recently districts have been surprised to find booster groups entering into contracts for services not usual to the exposure of a school district, sponsoring fireworks displays and providing volunteer babysitting to any age children without background checks and more. The district should always remember that its name will be associated with these uncontrolled exposures, and losses may impact its premium and status with an insurer.

Since booster and parent organizations are separate legal entities and not under the control or direction of the district, the Ohio School Plan cannot extend coverage for surety bonding, directors & officers liability and property exposures.  These coverages need to be purchased separately by the organization.

One of the common concerns of late has been the misuse of booster club funds.  Over the past several years, booster group officials have been charged with embezzlement, theft, or misuse of funds.  As a result of these booster club misdeeds, as well as a general best practice, booster groups and parent organizations should purchase a surety bond to cover the organization for this type of loss.  It is important to know that if there is payout under a surety bond, the surety typically has the right to subrogate against the at-fault party.

For example: A band booster group purchased a surety bond in the amount of $20,000.  It was later determined the treasurer of the band booster embezzled $12,000 from the group.  The group reported the $12,000 loss to the surety bonding company and the surety company, paid the group $12,000 under the surety bond.  The surety bond company typically has the right to subrogate (collect) the $12,000 from the treasurer of the booster group.

Interesting Note: This has become a serious enough issue that effective August 10, 2012, the Ohio Attorney General’s office is requiring that all boosters and parent organizations with gross receipts of $25,000 or more OR holds $25,000 or more in assets in any taxable year must now register with the Ohio Attorney General at http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/109:1-1-02. This change comes after the IRS decision in 2011 to begin revoking the tax-exempt status of non profits, including school support groups, who failed to file tax returns for three years.

Please contact the Ohio School Plan or your local representative with any questions.

 

Click here to print the Fall 2012 Ohio School Plan Newsletter


Student Transportation
By Melody Stiff, OSP Underwriter

The most commonly asked questions regarding student transportations relate to transportation outside of Ohio and the use of 12-15 passenger vans. These questions were recently addressed by the Ohio Department of Education in the Student Transportation Guidelines, as follows:

Student Transportation Outside of Ohio

Effective September 28, 2012 – H.B. 437 increases the maximum distance that school board-owned motor vehicles may travel on out-of-state trips from 240 miles to 1,000 miles.

ORC 3327.15 Use of vehicles outside state:
"The board of education of any school district that owns and operates motor vehicles for transporting pupils may permit such vehicles to be used outside this state for any lawful purpose, provided the entire distance traveled outside this state on any trip does not exceed 1,000 miles."
Amended: September 28, 2012

OAC 3301-83-16 Non-routine use of school buses (E) Out-of-state trips:
"
Any out-of-state travel shall remain within 1,000 miles round-trip distance from point of exit from the state to the point of entry to the state."
Effective: September 2012

The only option for transporting students further than the 1,000 mile radius is a commercial transportation carrier. Questions on this topic should be directed to the Ohio Department of Education.

12 - 15 Passenger Vans

ORC 4511.01 (F) and the National Traffic Motor Vehicle Safety Act expressly prohibit the use of large passenger vans (including 12-15 passenger vehicles) for the purpose of transporting children to or from school or school related activities. These regulations apply to all vehicles, regardless of ownership.

OAC 3301-83-19 Authorized vehicles for transportation of pupils to and from school and school-related events. A new section has been added this year to the ODE Pupil Transportation Operation and Safety Rules to exclude the use of 12-15 passenger non-commercial vehicles for the transportation of pupils.

The ODE Ohio Pupil Transportation Operation and Safety Rules can be downloaded at the ODE website at www.ode.state.oh.us. Then type in the title of this manual in the Search box.

Please distribute this information to the appropriate personnel in your district.

 

Click here to print the Fall 2012 Ohio School Plan Newsletter


New Board Member

Nathan LynchNathan Lynch is the Treasurer of Upper Sandusky Exempted Village School District.  We welcome the experience and knowledge that Nathan will bring to the Ohio School Plan and the board of directors.

For a complete list of the board of directors, please visit: www.ohioschoolplan.org/board.html.

To view Nathan Lynch's OSP Board of Directors profile, please visit: www.ohioschoolplan.org/lynch.html.

 

Click here to print the Fall 2012 Ohio School Plan Newsletter


Treasurer Bonds Reminder

Just a reminder to all school treasurers:  If you change districts, you must change your treasurer’s bond to reflect the new district.  A Treasurer Bond must reflect the school district with which you are currently employed.

If you need further information or have any questions, please contact Carol Valentine, underwriter on the OSBA bond program, at 419-724-1983 or carol.valentine@hylant.com.

 

Click here to print the Fall 2012 Ohio School Plan Newsletter

 

 

 

 

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