The Arkansas Retired Teachers Association held its annual state convention on Sept. 24 at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock. Several members of the Faulkner County Retired Teachers Association attended the general business session and luncheon. Those attending were ARTA Executive Director Steve Singleton, President Carl Barger, First Vice-President Kathryn Starr, Parliamentarian and Reporter Nancy Mitchell, and members Ella Reese, Denver and Freda Prince, Judy McKnight, Shirley Welch, and ARTA Secretary Janet Burks.
The FCRTA was recognized as a unit with one of the highest increases in membership during the past year. The local unit also received the Award for the Most Outstanding Youth Project for 2007-08 for their participation in the Bookcase for Every Child and the Books for Babies projects. A Unit Achievement Award was given to the FCRTA for completing all of the requirements and expectations of a local unit for 2007-08. This is the fifth consecutive year that the FCRTA has been recognized with this award. Ella Reese and Denver Prince received Individual Achievement Awards for their outstanding contribution and service to the local unit and to their community.
During the program, Mary Alice Hughes, from Hughes Asset Protection, spoke about the advantage of owning a Long Term Care policy as a way of protecting individual assets. She quoted statistics concerning the average monthly nursing home cost and the percentage of elderly who require these services. Also mentioned were the Delta Dental plans and the vision plans that are benefits to members of ARTA. The membership was advised to look into the Medicare Advantage plan that Blue Cross and Blue Shield offers to determine if this is something which could be of benefit.
Members were encouraged to join AARP and to get involved in the Divided We Fail campaign which is designed to encourage Congress to look for solutions to the health care issues in America.
Sharon Johnson, ARTA Activities Director, announced several travel opportunities that are open to interested members. Planned for 2009 are the following trips: A 16 day European tour which begins on April 17, and includes England, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and France; An 11 day Alaskan cruise and tour beginning May 18; An 8 day bus tour through the Canadian Rockies in June or July; An Aegean Discovery of Greece and Greek Isles in September or October and additional trips. Interested person are to contact Sharon Johnson at the ARTA office by calling 1-888-929-0955. Although the travel arrangements are provided as a benefit to ARTA members, non-members are welcome to sign up if room is available.
Dr. Steve Richards, Staff Pharmacist for the Boone County Medical Center in Harrison, presented a program entitled, "The Dangers of Drug Interactions." He stated, "Although we are fortunate to live in this country where we have access to so many prescriptive drugs, its use is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States with 100,000 persons dying annually from the side effects of drug interactions." He emphasized the importance of telling your doctor everything you take including herbals. He stated, "Open your eyes before your mouth," stressing the importance of reading the information about the prescription before taking them. "It's better to give a second thought than to die one time. When in doubt, leave it out. Ask the pharmacist any questions you may have before leaving the pharmacy."
Mr. Paul Doane, Executive Director of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System gave an update of the status of the system. He stated that the current crisis is the "most significant financial crisis since World War II. We are fundamentally a strong economy. There are a lot of smart people in control. A lot of people made mistakes." He assured the membership that there is nothing fundamentally broken about the retirement assets of the ATRS. Being a Defined Benefit Plan, it relies on both private and public markets. In addition, he discussed a chart which showed the percentages of active teachers by age composites. He stated that the average teacher is 45 years old with only nine years of teaching service and that of the 70,000 active teachers, only 1400 are eligible to retire at age 49.
The Zirconium Quartet entertained during the convention luncheon with a variety of songs from the 50's and 60's. Arkansas Teacher of the Year, Paul Gray, from Russellville was in attendance as well as winners of the Parsons-Burnette Grants which are used to further education in the teacher's field of study. Winners are: Rhonda Yvette Fowler, business technology teacher from Lawrence County; Amy Nicole Gordon, fourth grade teacher from Franklin County; Brandy Diane McGhee, special education teacher from Hot Springs County; Brent Aaron Miller, social studies teachers from Jackson County; and Patricia Ann Stinson, consumer science teacher from Howard County. Fifty-two teachers statewide competed for the scholarships.
Dr. Sue Griffin, Professor and Vice-Chairman for Research at the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, spoke on "Brain Research and Memory." Her major interests are molecular biology of Alzheimer's Disease and she focuses her research on the mechanisms involved in the progression of the illness. She mentioned a new breakthrough in medications for the disease but stressed much more research is needed.
Before the meeting was adjourned, ARTA President Helen Holloway announced that the state membership was 10,895 and encouraged every member to sign up at least one new member.