In February, Katie Webb was appointed to the Public School & Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri (PSRS/PEERS) Board of Trustees. Webb has taught in Hannibal for over 14 years and is a careerlong member of MSTA. The following transcript is an excerpt from her appearance on the MSTA Presents podcast, which can be listened to in full at mstapresents.podbean.com.
What has your experience serving on the Board of Trustees been like so far? I have learned a tremendous amount. It’s like drinking out of a fire hose. As a teacher, I have always known that PSRS is a phenomenal organization. I have always known that they are doing what they can for my retirement, and I think most teachers in the state of Missouri know how good (or have heard how good) that system is. But in learning their processes and meeting the staff, I was absolutely blown away at the level of professionalism and the intelligence of every individual I encountered. I came home [from my first meeting] and everybody said, “Well, how’d it go? Was it good?” What I told most people is this... I’ve always known that educator retirement is phenomenal. What I saw today with my own eyes is how passionate everyone is for what they do because it’s a multifaceted company. To listen to our CFO talk about our investments and talk about that world... That’s not a world I come from. I’m an educator and that is not something I think about on a day-to-day basis, which is part of why I think PSRS/PEERS is so amazing. There’s that security in knowing that I don’t have to be an expert on certain things because they have the right people in the right positions. And that was the biggest takeaway for me. The culture of PSRS/PEERS is so open and collaborative. They communicate very well with one another. There is not a question I couldn’t ask. If I don’t understand something, they encourage me to ask for clarification. The business world is not the world I come from. I come from the world of tying shoes and wiping noses and lesson planning and grading. I was humbled to be asked to do this, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve in this capacity.
What do you think is the most valuable aspect of the PSRS/PEERS system? Our work not only affects current educators and current retirees, but also their families. My parents have this delightful neighbor who has been living off her husband’s PSRS retirement for over 25 years. She lives on that. It is her sustainer. She said, “I thank you so much for doing what you’re doing.” People think of it as [only benefiting] the current retirees – no, these are their families. These are their beneficiaries that you have to think about and act with fiduciary responsibility. I have a responsibility to the system to make the best decisions because the retirement system is so great, and it’s got to continue to be phenomenal. I leave those meetings with such peace knowing that the right people are in the right positions to do so.
Why are organizations like MSTA and PSRS/PEERS important to teachers? It is tough to be a teacher. Day to day, our time is spent with all of these beautiful students, pouring into them. Our plan time is spent photocopying, having parent meetings, making phone calls and making connections home. It is difficult as a working professional to then find time to carve out and research what’s going on at the Capitol, what legislators are thinking we need to be doing in our classrooms and what’s going on with our retirement system. It’s mind-blowing that we have so much to do, which is why we have professional organizations like MSTA and PSRS/PEERS. It is critical for individuals to be in the right positions there. They are advocates for us because, most of the time, many teachers do not have the time physically in their day or energy in their day to go home and research all of that. That’s why I’m so thankful for MSTA being our voice at the Capitol. Most working professionals are so focused on what we must do to meet the needs of our students. We don’t have the freedom or luxury of time to look through all of the things coming out of the Capitol and in the financial world. I’ve worked with Matt Michelson quite a bit through our Government Relations Committee, and PSRS/PEERS also has a gentleman by the name of Mike Moorefield who is their chief council. And I got to meet him and our lobbyists for PSRS/PEERS. They have to look at what the state’s doing with pensions, and it was just lovely to get to see that side of things because that was not something, quite frankly, that I’d ever really considered. When my time comes for retirement (hopefully many, many, many moons from now), I’ll know that it’s a wonderful system that will take care of me.
How has your involvement with MSTA impacted your work with the Board? I would never have had this opportunity without being a member of MSTA. When I spoke with a former MSTA member who had done this position previously, she said it was the single most rewarding thing she’d ever done as a professional. I thought, “Wow, that’s powerful to say that.” Because of my involvement with MSTA, I was able to have this opportunity that I would never have gotten to have. I mean, that’s amazing. That’s huge. My superintendent said to me, “Katie, you may not have many opportunities prior to becoming a principal. We do not have a lot of opportunities during the regular school year to work as practicing administrators. But through your involvement and leadership in your professional organization, you are able to have conversations with central office staff. You are able to have conversations with administrators. You are able to do these things and that shows leadership.” Showing leadership in your professional organization can also reflect your ability to be a leader of people in your job capacity, so I would encourage any new members to get involved. They should speak with their building representatives about how they can get involved with the building. A lot of CTAs have many opportunities for things they do at the local level. And I think volunteers are something nobody ever has too many of. Then eventually, you become a lifer like me. You start going to everything and then you meet all kinds of crazy, amazing individuals from all over the state that you adore. I know so many more individuals through MSTA and my life is blessed and better because of MSTA. Not only professionally, but personally as well.
Another recent MSTA Presents podcast episode features PSRS/PEERS Executive Director, Dearld Snider, who discussed the board, the market, retirement trends and how to prepare for retirement. Listen at mstapresents.podbean.com.
Do you have any questions for Katie Webb about the Public School & Education Employee Retirement Systems or MSTA involvement? Let us know at www.motea.ch/PSRSQuestions and we will be in contact soon.